On December 2, 2022, the Mansfield Foundation convened a roundtable discussion with Dr. Mariko Nishizawa (Founding Director, Litera Japan) and Mr. Paul Dickman (Senior Policy Fellow, Argonne National Laboratory) who spoke on the challenges of recruiting a new generation of talent for the future of the nuclear industry in Japan.
Dr. Nishizawa started the discussion by looking at why young talents are not joining the nuclear industry in Japan. This could be for a multitude of factors including the image of the nuclear industry being vey closed and not open to innovation, or concerns about nuclear energy due to vivid memories of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown. Dr. Nishizawa also looked at the value of communication skills, and how risk communication is not about persuasion or science communication. It is about building trust with the public. Dr. Nishizawa also emphasized the need for more diversity in the nuclear workforce, especially women, which might help question and challenge established ideas and old-fashioned practices.
Mr. Dickman focused on workforce recruitment and retention for nuclear decommissioning programs. Mr. Dickman went through the different types of decommission operations and how each changes the profile of workforce that a facility needs including which positions can be kept, new ones needed, and ones no longer applicable to transitioned operations. Workforce planning and how to communicate the future is essential for keeping current management and bringing new people into the industry. Mr. Dickman also discussed the importance of good communication with the local community to gain support for decommissioning operations.
During the Q&A section of the event, Dr. Nishizawa elaborated on the challenges that nuclear facility staff face in order to grow more integrated in the local community. In Fukushima, the nuclear industry has begun to contribute to a science school in the area, but there are people who refuse to live in the area and prefer commuting in for work. In fact, many people from Fukushima are still reluctant to go back to their hometowns in the area due to fear of additional radiation. Moreover, when TEPCO established the Niigata headquarters in April 2015, there was concern among the workforce about good education opportunities for their children, as the area is very remote. Dr. Nishizawa, along with Mr. Dickman, also discussed the communication challenges stemming from certain nuclear issues becoming political and highly controversial, such as the upcoming release of treated nuclear waste water.