Eleven top universities, such as the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University, accepted a total of some 10.4 billion yen in nuclear technology research funds from the government and industry between fiscal 2006 and 2010, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
Some of the institutions even accepted hundreds of millions of yen a year. These universities have been effectively guaranteed stable amounts of research funds as long as they cooperate in the promotion of nuclear power, demonstrating that such high education institutions have been incorporated into the national policy.
The Mainichi Shimbun compiled the figures based on documents that it accessed under the Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs. Of at least 10.487 billion yen in total funding, the institutions accepted 9.3 billion yen from the government and companies in the nuclear energy industry as fees to conduct research on their behalf.
For example, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry paid over 514 million yen to Fukui University in fiscal 2010 for research and development of key technology aimed at placing a fast-breeder nuclear reactor into practical use. The institutions took a combined 410.83 million yen for joint research projects with private companies and other organizations. Companies typically foot up to several millions of yen for each project.
Researchers at these universities received a total of 218.22 million yen in donations from businesses for their research activities, most of which the recipients were allowed to freely use. Masanori Aritomi, professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, received 18.85 million yen in donations, the largest amount of an individual researcher.
“I have a chronic disease and can’t use an economy class seat when I travel abroad to attend research sessions, and need a larger amount of funds to cover my travel expenses. I guess the donors took that into consideration,” he said.
Regarding fears that donations from companies could distort the results of his research, Aritomi said, “I take care to prevent such a problem. I specialize in research and development rather than safety assessment. So I don’t think there’s any problem.”
Shortly after the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan appointed Aritomi as an adviser to the Cabinet Secretariat. The government and the industry did not provide any funds to Kyoto University assistant professors Hiroaki Koide and Tetsuji Imanaka, who have constantly warned of risks involving nuclear power stations.
Four of the 11 universities held lectures on nuclear energy funded by businesses. Electric power suppliers and other firms donated a combined 491 million yen to these institutions to hold such lectures. By university, Kyoto University received the largest amount of funds from the government and private businesses at about 3.36 billion yen, followed by the University of Tokyo with nearly 2.559 billion yen and the Tokyo Institute of Technology with some 1.67 billion yen.