ē e Љ LECxg cTv N ANZX
Director Toyohiko YANO, Dr. Eng.

In April 2013, I assumed the Office of Director of the Research Laboratory for Nuclear Reactors (RLNR) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. The RLNR had initially been funded as a research facility in April 1956 with the purpose to formulate research scientific principles and applications of nuclear engineering and then, it had been upgraded to a research laboratory attached to the Institute. Subsequently, it became an institute-affiliated research laboratory “RLNR”, since national universities were being turned into independent administrative entities in April 2004. Although the RLNR is a small research laboratory in size as a university institute, many excellent research activities on nuclear energy and radiation utilization have been conducted since its foundation. It has become yet another important institute and assumed a great role in the field of nuclear energy.

On the occasion that the Tokyo Institute of Technology turned from a national university into an independent administrative entity in 2004, the RLNR formulated its medium-term objectives and plan as a research laboratory.

Now it has entered into its second –term of the plan. In the current medium-term phase of the plan, “Innovative nuclear energy system study”, “Actinide management study”, “Global nuclear security study”, and “Advanced radiation application for medical treatment study” have been promoted as mission-driven studies. At the same time, the basic requisite infrastructure studies, necessary for those studies, have been promoted. We have a high degree of confidence that these new studies will be integral in the next medium-term plan, generated out of the basic infrastructure study.        

The Tohoku (the northeastern region of Japan) earthquake and the severe nuclear accident, which led to the reactor core melt-down, occurred on March 11, 2011, inflicted enormous damage to a wide-spread area of Japan. Even now, a great number of people continue to suffer by this natural disaster and accident, and have been forced to live in shelters as evacuees. The precious lives of nearly twenty-thousand people were lost and a great number of residential buildings/ houses were destroyed by a massive earthquake of a magnitude of 9.0--- one of greatest quake in history, followed by a devastating tsunami. In this regard, we would like to express our heartfelt sympathy to the victims and related persons involved. Although it is not easy to find counter measures against the forces of nature, such as massive earthquakes and giant tsunamis, I think that we must accept the great risks faced from the forces of nature, as a natural flow of things for the people of Japan, living along the “ring of fire” of active movements at the earth’s crust, producing such beautiful mountains, rivers, seashores and hot-spa areas. However, why could we not have anticipated and prevented the accidental melt down of the reactor core at the nuclear power station by a giant tsunami that exceeded “the assumption scope” at the nuclear power station? In response to the “assured events”, preferred safety measures must have been carried out, and that is clearly evident from the fact that all the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant automatically stopped just after the quake. But I think that everyone involved did consciously or subconsciously rule out the “worst-case scenario”. In the position of a nuclear scientist and researcher in the research laboratory, entrusted with the mission of nuclear research and study, I was extremely upset/ frustrated, and at the same time I was very sorry that I could not have prevented such an occurrence. At the RLNR, all staff, including a director, professors and all employees, is intending to work together to accomplish the end of the nuclear disaster and at the earliest time Japan’s restoration/ recovery from it.                   

The RLNR and the Department of Nuclear Engineering, the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, the Tokyo Institute of Technology are operating and have developed as “two sides of the same coin”. During the fiscal years 2003 – 2007, the program on the “Innovative Nuclear Energy System for Sustainable Development of the World” proposed by the Department of Nuclear Engineering had been adopted as the only nuclear-related program in the nation of the 21st century COE (Center of Excellence) Programs by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and had been concluded successfully. Even after that, during the fiscal years 2008 – 2010, the department-proposed program “Nuclear Engineering Course Graduate Education System For Letting One’s Personality Shine” had been adopted in the graduate education reform support program (so called “Graduate School GP”). And the educational reform in the master’s program had largely been conducted. Furthermore, the doctoral course education program for Leading Graduate Schools developed the “Global Human Resource Development Program for Nuclear Safety and Security”. It has just started at the latter half of the fiscal year 2011, as a unique – the only one of its kind that meets the mission - 7-year program that has been solely operated by the Department of Nuclear Engineering. In this way, a new educational program with essentially a focus on safety and security of nuclear energy has been established in the doctoral course. And thus, the educational system that consistently implements the highest level of nuclear engineering education has been established. Through the above-mentioned efforts, the entire department actively addresses the development of young people who have the mission to continue the future nuclear energy.       

The RLNR conducts scientific research of nuclear energy to seek practical solutions of problems between energy and global environmental issues, as an important pillar of its projects, and works in cooperation not only with the people of the United States, European countries and former republics of the Soviet Union, but also with the people of the South-East Asian countries of Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, etc. As a hub research institution, it will be able to explore the frontiers in of nuclear energy, including various radiation applications, and accordingly, to strives to become a global cooperative scientific research institution for nuclear energy and radiation applications.

In the middle of the 21st century, rapid population increases in developing countries and improved living standards in those areas give sharp increases in world energy consumption. Therefore, fears of a great global environmental problem may have taken place as well as of problems in energy, food and water. Among those, it is particularly well known that an increase in atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) concentration is a factor that causes global warming and abnormal weather. To reduce emission of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases while securing energy necessary for our life is a great challenge for all human survival on the Earth in to the future. In this regard, there were great expectations for nuclear energy. However, the most dangerous aspect of nuclear energy had been revealed to the public by the severe nuclear accident of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Reverting to the original position as a scientist, I sincerely think that we must humbly recognize the risks involved in the release of the enormous energy from the atomic nucleus, and then, reconstruct a safer nuclear system than ever before, in light of the important lessons learned from the nuclear accident.     . 

First of all, I would like to address the challenges for the earliest recovery from the nuclear accident. In order to carry out my responsibility, as an expert in the field, I would like to continue the research and educational activities of the RLNR and of the graduate school to which I belong. Other challenges include regaining public confidence to nuclear energy, and learning well from the experiences of the severe nuclear accident. Historically, Japan had very often faced crises of survival as a state, such as the opening of a country, the Great Kanto Earthquake, the Second World War, etc. and had developed by overcoming such difficulties. In this regard, I think Japan had become stronger and a better nation each time whenever overcoming crisis. I am sure that the same holds true this time in the case of the earthquake disaster, where we must inevitably overcome the difficulties. It is very important that I must make judgments fairly, as a scientist of conscience, while conveying and explaining the results to the public.     

While securing advice, understanding, and support from people both within and outside the Institute, I will do my utmost to live up and maintain our laboratory (i.e. the RLNR) that society in general has high expectations of, and with worthwhile research and study projects, involving our staff in cooperation with students. I sincerely hope and ask for your continued cooperation and support.