I am a PhD student in the interdisciplinary program of International Affairs, Science and Technology at Georgia Tech. I was very fortunate to be awarded a travel scholarship to attend the Atomic Age Symposium held at the University of Chicago on May 5th, 2012, and also go on an excursion trip to the Chicago Piles, the first nuclear reactor site within the U.S. the next day. It was an immense pleasure and wonderful experience to attend both events, learn great perspectives from experts in the field, and make new friends with similar interests.
At the one-day Atomic Age Symposium, I sat in a completely full conference hall, hearing speeches made by several prominent scholars and activists on a variety of topics, including the development of nuclear energy both within Japan and the U.S., the danger of nuclear power on human health and environment, the aftermath of 3/11 disaster, and the grassroots activism to help mitigate damages to the Fukushima community. As a student with education background in both natural sciences and social sciences, I was very delighted to see both the “human” side and the technical side of the nuclear energy risks discussed by the prominent speakers, and felt privileged to hear sobering stories from people who have been most directly affected by the nuclear disaster in Japan. The combination of technical expertise as well as social concerns throughout the symposium provided a well-rounded venue for learning and further exploration on the topic of Japan’s nuclear energy policy.
In the evening the symposium organizers took us scholarship recipients to dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was an ideal chance for networking, as I got to know much more about fellow scholars who are doing research in East Asia as we sit at around the same table and enjoy beautiful food and drinks. We shared our experiences doing fieldwork, attending/organizing conferences, applying for grants, and studying in the U.S. The food was great and the conversations were even better.
The next day I went on an excursion to the Chicago Piles with the symposium organizers and several fellow scholarship winners. After about one hour drive and a walk through muddy mountain trails, we reached the destination, the world’s first man-made nuclear reactor site. We took group photos and toured a bit around the area. The area just looked like an ordinary hillside, if not for the stone monument on the ground that tells the history of past experiments and reminds us that nuclear energy had a humble beginning merely half a century ago. During the excursion I also got to talk with fellow travelers and know more about them. As I only have a modest working knowledge of Japanese, Prof. Miyamoto was very kind to translate my question for Prof. Koide during our conversation.
In all, I had a very rewarding trip to attend the Atomic Age Symposium in Chicago. I would like to thank Prof. Norman Field, Prof. Yuki Miyamoto, and all the other organizers who have organized such an amazing symposium. It was their warm support that made the trip to the symposium and the excursion possible, and made my experience a warm and memorable one.