On March 11, 2016, the International School Network visited the Tokyo Regional Office of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to interview the head, Mr. Davis Hurt. We were also joined by Ms. Yoshikawa.
The Great Tohoku Earthquake
The day of the interview significantly marked the 5th year since the Great Tohoku Earthquake. This devastating earthquake has caused various nuclear accidents, namely the meltdowns and explosions of several power plant reactors in Fukushima. Mr. Hurt explained that we must all “learn from the tragic accident” to “improve preparations”. He described to us the importance of plans, including the topics of evacuations and proper measurement of radioactivity. He also mentioned that in Fukushima there is one small IAEA office run by one man.
IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)
Mr. Hurt explained to us that the problem of nuclear waste management is “more political than technological”. Waste management is a problem that is recurrently discussed on media, and is often a source of concern for many people. However, Mr. Hurt believes that “dangers have been exaggerated”, as issues concerning the costs of accidents are much more expensive and important than those concerning nuclear waste.
Mr. Hurt’s Background
Mr. Hurt introduced to us that he was the only engineer or chemist in his family. After graduate school he underwent nuclear activities in various places in the United States. He mentioned that he has lived in five different places in the US, but he spent most of his adulthood in Vienna. In Japan he has also worked in numerous locations including Fukui and Aomori. Yet he expressed with certainty, “Tokyo is my favorite place.” He greatly enjoys the differences, especially in appearance, between Europe, the United States, and Japan.
Ms. Yoshikawa has worked in the United States and Nagoya. She has been working in the United Nations.
Madoka Nishina 12th Saint Maur International School
Kate Shimizu 12th Seisen International School
Kurumi Onishi 11th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 6th Saint Maur International School
Mr. Hurt explained that his goals in life are to retire peacefully, without any need to visit “dangerous places”. Mr. Hurt believes that world peace may come true “perhaps in the next world”. He believes that because of human nature, wars will be inevitable. Yet Mr. Hurt expressed that he wishes that no more large, long wars will occur, and that people can “come to their senses” in such aspect.
Message for Japanese students
Mr. Hurt encourages students to join the nuclear field of work. He realizes that this section is no longer “new” or “fashionable”, but he explains that this work is technical, interesting, important, and well-paid. He commented that the field needs more young talented people. He also expressed his thanks towards Japanese people in general for their kindness to him.
Tokyo Regional Office
The Tokyo Regional Office of IAEA is responsible for verifying nuclear weapon production and honoring promises for peaceful purposes of nuclear use. Mr. Davis Hurt explained to us that the office inspects various nuclear facilities in Japan. Inspectors visit 200-300 locations in Japan such as nuclear power plants, universities, and laboratories to make measurements and records. As a part of the Safeguards Department, IAEA supports and monitors nuclear safety, sciences, and waste.
Mr. Hurt commented that there are no Japanese citizen inspectors in the Japanese office although there are 4 staff members who are Japanese. He explained that this reduces bias when inspecting. The Tokyo Regional Office of IAEA is made of 22 people from 15 different countries. Advantages in having a regional office include the fact that Japan is the “biggest inspector”, and that it saves costs. The Tokyo Regional Office provides storage and transportation for safeguards equipment in addition to allowing for a liaison with the Jpns government and the On Site Laboratory (OSL) at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant.
Mr. Hurt explained to us that the women participation in the IAEA is ample, with the number one staff under the director of IAEA, Mr. Yukiya Amano, being a Japanese woman. Yet the Nuclear field has very few women, especially in Japan. Mr. Hurt explained that IAEA is trying to increase the number of women and to hire more women inspectors. He commented that now in the Tokyo office there are 2 women radiochemists, one from Malaysia and the other from China.