Word from the President
Dear members of the European Nuclear Society,
What a busy and memorable first quarter of the year it has been. The energy policies of countries all over the globe have been put in the spotlight and openly discussed against the backdrop of the first “anniversary” of the Fukushima accident. During this time, ENS successfully organised several conferences, including RRFM and TopSafe, in Prague and Helsinki respectively, as well as PIME in Warsaw, where my first official duty as ENS President was to open this inspiring conference.
Over the years, PIME has proven to be an invaluable focal point for communicators from all sectors of the nuclear community and all corners of the globe, and this was once again the case in February this year. Many nuclear communicators congregated in Warsaw, the birth place of Marie Sklodowska-Curie, to exchange their views and experiences - especially those during the days, weeks and months following Fukushima. There were two main lessons that I learned during the conference:
Firstly, when it comes to reporting on science, especially nuclear matters, the German media behave differently to their counterparts in other countries.
Secondly, scientists and communicators should come together more often to talk about the challenges and problems that they face, as well as to identify opportunities for communicating the facts.
For me as a scientist it is important to understand how the media work, and as a communicator it is very important to understand the challenges of technology.
Another highlight of the PIME conference was the technical visit to Poland’s National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ), in Swierk, where the MARIA research reactor is located. Prof. Dobrzynski, the Head of NCBJ, showed participants the MARIA reactor and the radioactive waste management disposal facilities. He also gave participants a detailed insight into the nuclear research and teaching programme on offer in Poland.
During recent months it has been very interesting to observe how the energy policy of different countries has evolved. On the one hand, the impact of the Fukushima accident in countries where new build projects are up and running, like UK, Finland, UAE, Poland, has been minimal. Their new build plans continue unaffected. On the other hand, however, politicians in Germany and Switzerland decided to phase-out nuclear without already having a proper and necessary replacement for it. They speak easily about importing energy, but without knowing were all this energy will come from, how it is produced and how it will be transported to their respective countries.
And last but not least, there have been significant developments in Japan itself. The Japanese people suffered most from the tragic accident that took place one year ago. They are now suffering from an energy deficit and the need to import a lot of fossil energy sources, which makes life much more difficult and expensive for Japanese citizens. This problem is not reported on by the media, and nor are the huge efforts that have been made in Japan to clean up the contaminated land and to decommission the affected reactors.
My wish for the future is that we, the nuclear community, find ways of communicating more effectively to people the facts about nuclear because, as the famous American science fiction writer HP Lovecraft once said: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
President of ENS