2017 New Year's Message to NUMO Staff from the President

Dear Colleagues,

Happy new year to you all. In the oriental astrological calendar, 2017 is the year of “丁酉” (hinoto-tori) . It is often said that the year of “酉” (tori) is the year of progress. For example, in 1957, which was the year of “hinoto-tori” of sixty years ago, the population of Tokyo (8.51 million people) surpassed that of London to have the largest population in the world. Also, in the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (now JAEA: Japan Atomic Energy Agency) located in Tokai-mura of Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan’s first nuclear reactor (JRR-1) achieved the first sustained chain reaction or criticality in the year.

According to the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements, “丁酉” (hinoto-tori) is the combination of Fire and Metal which represents a conflicting relationship as Fire melts Metal. “丁” (hinoto) represents growing woods and “酉” (tori) represents fully ripened nuts: the combination also has a contradicting relationship. Thus, this year also has aspects of conflict and contradiction.

Despite the year of progress, it also includes conflicting and contradicting aspects. What does this mean? For example, also in 1957, the U.S. and the Soviet Union announced the successful launch of ICBM but it triggered the deterioration of the relationship of both countries heading toward the Cold War. In Japan Mr. Kishi Nobusuke became Prime Minister and his cabinet’s action to revise the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty triggered Japan’s biggest postwar political crisis. Therefore, we should learn from the past that expecting the occurrence of events which make an era in this year, we should be really careful as they could lead to problems later on. Namely, when you do something, you should always think about consequence and unexpected events that might be accompanied with. Considering that, in this year, we NUMO should have spirit to step forward, under vigilant risk management for any possible situations.

We expected that the Government announced a map showing potentially more suitable areas for siting a deep geological disposal repository in the end of last year but it was postponed since it needs more consideration. NUMO has been working on approaches after the announcement of the map, while participating in the consideration. To behave in this way is relevant to the year of “hinoto-tori.”

In the fifth International Conference on Geological Repositories (ICGR) held in Paris last month, President Christopher Eckerberg, SKB of Sweden, said, “The period from R&D to operation of a GDF possibly requires fifty five years, and this is a long and winding road.” In response, many participants followed him by saying, “To walk on such road, it is important to continuously confirm the appropriateness of activities for realizing geological disposal from the viewpoints of the progress of society, economy, technology and politics, and ensure its robustness in a stepwise manner, without hesitating to stop if necessary.”

After the announcement of the map of the potentially suitable areas by the Government, NUMO will continue its activities to enhance public interest in the project and aim to carry out geological environment surveys in municipalities which accept the survey from the viewpoint of seeking possibilities to make this project a lever of their sustainable development. Here, it is important to use our time till the announcement effectively to review and re-evaluate the reliability of our activities. Because it is said that the best way to not waste your time is to use it properly for yourself.

The siting of the GDF in Japan is a very first challenge although the knowledge of mine technology with a long history can be utilized. NUMO needs to be recognized by the public as a group of trustworthy experts through continuous learning and refinement of knowledge and technology required in cooperation with many experts, and be accepted as the organization which has competence to establish co-operative relationships by making efforts to support sustainable development of local communities while dealing with various stakeholders. To do that, we should focus on preparation for dialogues with the public in every aspect of activity for realizing geological disposal of HLW.

By the way, I recently watched the presentation by Mr. Tim Leberecht on the TED talks and found it quite impressive. According to him, in the future society where AI and robots will replace human workforces, it is important for organizations to remain humanity. And he proposes the following four principles.

Do the unnecessary: “When you cut the unnecessary, you cut everything.”
Create intimacy: “Tear down barriers that keep workers apart.”
Stay incomplete: “Beautiful companies keep asking questions.”
Embrace ugliness: “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. By openly acknowledging our flaws, they have less power to harm us.”

Certainly I encourage you to be bold but careful, try to do the unnecessary, positively communicate with your colleagues, accept our flaws, and challenge to do many things. And we together strive to accomplish our goals while maintaining our office filled with brightness and vibrancy. Because your energies and smiles create trust bonds with the public.

January 4, 2017

Kondo Shunsuke

President of NUMO