The Decline of Students Studying Nuclear Power in Japan

After the nuclear accident in Fukushima, there has been an explosion of criticism and debates over nuclear power in this country. The government, electricity companies, and nuclear scientists were accused of their faults, especially right after the accident. The newspapers show that many people became more skeptical of nuclear energy as a result. In recent years, the number of Japanese students majoring in nuclear power studies is declining, probably because these negative thoughts had an impact on them.

According to “School Statistics of the Ministry of Education”, the number of students majoring in the field of nuclear power has dropped dramatically since 1995. Today the number is only half of  what the number had been at its peak. Even if a decline in the number of university students as a whole is considered, this decrease is not negligible. What kind of factors caused this serious situation? Moreover, have any governmental or educational institutions noticed or tried to solve this problem?

Mitsuru Uesaka, a professor at University of Tokyo and representative of the Japanese Nuclear Organization, explains that “the decrease had appeared since the accident at Three Mile Island 40 years ago. Furthermore, the Chernobyl accident made the field of study much unpopular.” The University of Tokyo is one of the universities that has specialized in nuclear education in Japan. Professor Uesaka also explains that many educational institutions have recognized the issue from its early stages and thus reorganized internationalization. As a result of having various subjects, the number of students has been maintained and even experienced a small increase in recent years since the accident at Three Mile Island 40 years ago. 

Furthermore, the Chernobyl accident made the field of study much unpopular.” The University of Tokyo is one of the universities that has specialized in nuclear education in Japan. Professor Uesaka also explains that many educational institutions have recognized the issue from its early stages and thus reorganized internationalization. As a result of having various subjects, the number of students has been maintained and even experienced a small increase in recent years.

However, it is more difficult to find students aiming for research, since the regulations for nuclear power experiments are becoming stricter. This is because many nuclear reactors have no choice but to stop operating due to safety issues. Therefore, Professor Uesaka feels that more dynamic research is decreasing. The Abe administration has decided to cover 20 to 22% of the electric power source in Japan by 2030. However, it is not clear whether the decision will work properly with lower credibility due to the accident in Fukushima.

Additionally, it is also difficult to find students who can solve technological problems with specialized knowledge in a society where negative opinions of nuclear power are prevalent. Accordingly, such enforcement should be started after gaining enough support.


Written by Takayoshi Kawahara

Edited by Ryoko Shibata Saya Takeda