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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Future dim for tainted industry

Nuke majors in decline at universities

Kyodo

The number of students enrolled as nuclear energy majors at seven universities has fallen by 16 percent this year, a Kyodo News survey said Monday.

Among universities offering undergraduate and graduate programs in the nuclear sciences, only 223 students had enrolled for the 2012 academic year, compared with 264 last year.

"Students may be concerned whether the field of study is promising enough" in light of the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, an education ministry official acknowledged.

Experts fear that the decrease in students may lead to shortages of engineers and experts needed to decommission reactors and develop decontamination technology, as well as sustain power utilities' regular nuclear operations. Human resources in such fields will be needed even if Japan moves toward denuclearization, they said.

The seven universities are the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Fukui University, Waseda University, Tokyo City University, Tokai University and Fukui University of Technology.

Fukui University of Technology saw the biggest decline among the seven, with enrollments in the department of nuclear-related studies plunging to 10 from last year's 34, a drop of 71 percent. Fukui University saw numbers drop to 25 from 42, a 40 percent drop.

Fukui Prefecture, in which the two universities are located, has a concentration of nuclear reactors, including those stuck in the restart debate at the Oi power plant.

Applicants for departments offering such majors at the seven universities declined by 12 percent to 647, according to the survey.

The number of applicants and enrollments last year was about the same as in the previous year, according to the universities.

"Students are anxious as it is unclear whether the idled reactors nationwide will actually be reactivated," said Fumio Nakayasu, a professor at Fukui University of Technology's department of the application of nuclear technology.

All but one of Japan's 54 commercial nuclear reactors have been idled, mostly for regular maintenance, and no decisions have been made to restart them amid heightened public concern over the safety of nuclear power since the Fukushima disaster.



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