February 12, 2014
Proposals based on the perspective
how the Engineering paradigm shall become
for the ideal future, after learning from Great East Japan Earthquake
The Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers
Over the two years of surveys in regard to the Great East Japan Earthquake through our activities of the Research and Proposal Committee for Future Measures, the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME) has compiled a report on the results of the survey on the earthquake, concurrently concluded the proposals for future engineering practice which derived from the lessons from Great East Japan Earthquake. The main lesson was the importance of promoting communication between engineers and society. It is important to obtain social consensus through activities of engineers, to be specific, engineers should explain properly to the public about the benefits and risks of the achievement of technologies that engineers recommend, and then they shall move ahead with social understanding for their technologies. As well as committing these proposals to the public, JSME is willing to take the initiative in increasing the amount of contact between society and engineers, and powerfully advancing the cooperation among industry, academia, and the government to increase the understanding of technologies throughout society.
Proposal I: To avoid minor failures of large-scale systems, the methodology establishment for the reliability of totality
Large-scale systems such as nuclear generation facilities are established on the basis of integrated knowledge from various fields of science and engineering. When these systems lead to the large-scale disaster by such as the earthquake and tsunami, inadequacies were found to cause the problems among the expertise of each field. For example, mechanical engineers had not considered tsunami-related issues to be a part of civil engineering therefore not has been examining safety measures to protect mechanical equipment from a tsunami. To overcome these sorts of problems, it is necessary to establish a methodology that develops a comprehensive system in order to advance its reliability, by overviewing the whole system, clarifying the lack of adequacies among the expertise of each field. And then we are able to take measures from the perspective of scientific design. JSME, in cooperation with industry, academia, and the government, should make immediate efforts to systematize the methodology known as “design science.”
Proposal II: Explain to the public about the design criteria for manufacturing and how to handle for the case of exceeding the “assumed values”
In the design stage of large-scale systems, assuming the maximum external forces to which the systems will be subjected throughout their lifetime is essential for determining the specifications. When external forces are caused by large-scale disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, those may exceed the assumed values. Two issues emerged here that became our serious consideration, namely, (1) how to determine the assumed values (safety goal) and (2) how to deal with the case exceeding the assumed values.
The lesson from the Great East Japan Earthquake recognized the necessity to explain to the public the reason why the assumed value is determined for the safety goal and also explain how to prepare for the risk in the case of exceeding the assumed values. It is essential to obtain the understanding widely from the public through our address of consensus – building on society. JSME profoundly believes in the necessity of such an appropriate approach for the determination of assumed values.
This approach applies not only to nuclear generation facilities but also to other large-scale systems including chemical plants and traffic systems. JSME, in cooperation with industry, academia, and the government, should make efforts to explain to the public the reason why the assumed values based on design criteria is set, and prepare for the case of exceeding the assumed values.
Proposal III: Promote the communication of risk with regard to technologies
In the stage of planning large-scale systems, the engineers and involved researchers should accurately predict the benefits as well as the intrinsic risks in the systems, and then provide adequately this information to the public. In advance, engineers shall obtain the correct comprehension by society, and the effort to contribute building a consensus within society is necessary. This requires two types of skills; (1) A skill for accurately predicting risks and dealing with them (risk management skills) and (2) A skill for proclaiming the risks to the public and obtaining comprehension of risks by the public (risk communication skills). These two skills are required not only for an individual engineer and researcher but also for organizations including universities, industry, and the government. It is necessary to widely promote the communication of risk with regard to technologies within society.
JSME, in cooperation with industry, academia, and the government, should make serious efforts to establish this approach and provide the necessary information timely to the public in order to promote the social structure with correct public understanding including the risk communication.
Proposal IV: Through the lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake, design manufacturing criteria and standards in order to reduce damage caused by disasters, and develop further capability for the people who shall be engaged in.
Utilizing the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake, we must challenge to reduce the damage which would cause by future disasters such as huge another earthquake. In addition, through the results of research and surveys on the Great East Japan Earthquake, it is essential to review over international criteria and standards and manuals for the manufacturing along to the cooperation among industry, academia, and the government. This will be able to convey the experience acquired from the Great East Japan Earthquake to the next generation. On the sideline of this trend, it is also important to develop, educate, and train new kind of young researchers and engineers who shall be engaged in reviewing criteria and standards. JSME, in cooperation with industry, academia, and the government, should make efforts to apply the results of the survey on the Great East Japan Earthquake to international criteria and standards and to develop the skills of people who will be involved in this work.