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Japan: University, grad school enrollments to study nuclear energy drop by 16%

Enrollments at departments offering majors in nuclear energy-related studies at seven universities in Japan have dropped by 16 percent this year in the wake of the nuclear crisis triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami last March.

Students enrolling in undergraduate and graduate courses at the seven universities in the country allowing first-year students to choose their major in such fields totaled 223 this year, down by 16 percent from 264 last year.

An official of the education ministry said, “Students may be concerned whether the field of study is promising enough” after the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan.

Experts fear that the decrease in students in such fields may cause in the future a lack of engineers and experts necessary for reactor decommissioning and developing decontamination technology as well as employees for power companies. 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 students enrolling in the department of nuclear-related studies dropping to 10 from last year’s 34, or by 71 percent. Fukui University saw the number drop to 25 from 42, a 40 percent drop. Fukui Prefecture, in which the two universities are located, has a concentration of nuclear reactors.

The number of applicants for departments is 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 are currently idled mostly after regular maintenance and no decisions have been made to restart any of them amid heightened public concern over the safety of nuclear power in the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima plant.

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