Simon Hardegger, Psychologist, Switzerland

«Overconfidence is risky»

Simon Hardegger is director of the Centre of Diagnostics, Traffic Psychology and Safety Psychology.

"Future employees at nuclear power plants must act deliberately in every sense of the word, they must notice things and be able to properly classify them despite complex processes, avoid rushed decisions, demonstrate good psychomotor skills, be social and a team player, accept criticisms and mistakes, and maintain a high level of attention in monotonous situations. We test these traits at the Institute for Applied Psychology at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Examining the mental capacity of future nuclear power plant employees is done in accordance with a federal regulation and is monitored by ENSI. When it comes to the demands on police officers, for example, who we also test, there is more in common than you would think. Police officers as well as nuclear power plant employees have to be very conscientious, dutiful and reliable. A certain modesty for one's tasks is important. Overconfidence in both professions is risky and should be avoided. There is a danger of subjective underestimation of the potential danger and overestimation of one's own ability to influence a situation. But unlike a nuclear power plant employee, a police officer has to act in a very interactive manner and be able, for example, to assess their effect on others and de-escalate socially dangerous situations. In addition to a strong team orientation, nuclear power plant employees require a culture to deal with mistakes, which includes openness, as well as a feel for monotonous yet highly complex work. The typical employee of a nuclear power plant is a male from the field of technology who is over the age of 30. He wants to settle down, is technologically adept and likes a regulated, pre-planned environment. Among the tests conducted in the centre are role simulations in which psychologists present a realistic scenario and assess the reaction of those being tested according to given criteria. From the first meeting up until the last day, the continuous testing follows a guideline so that we can include as objective a result as possible in the recommendation to the nuclear power plants."

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Without provoking or causing a scandal, wants to shake things up a bit by encouraging society to reflect on a subject that affects all of us: nuclear power. It is a subject that polarises, turning opponents and supporters into ideologues. And it is a subject that divides the informed and the uninformed in a way that creates intentional and unintentional dependencies. Against the background of the current debates on the 'energy transition', we want to contribute a critical discussion for all those who want to more know about nuclear power. And we want to do our bit to overcome the deep ideological divide that separates supporters and opponents. When it comes to this subject, the truth very quickly becomes relative – or is made relative. You move around in an area where experts, opinion makers, ideologues, affected persons, victims, lobbyists, politicians and world saviours jostle against each other. Everyone should be able to have their say, to tell their truth. The truth of the radiation victims as well as that of the power plant operators, the supporters and the opponents. The second objective of the book is to explore the many facets of truth – and remain receptive to all those who want to make it comfortable for us.

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