原子力人材確保 「脱原発」からの決別が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 8, 2012)
Make sure nuclear fields have quality human resources
原子力人材確保 「脱原発」からの決別が急務だ(4月7日付・読売社説)

How can Japan secure and develop human resources who will work in the nuclear power field? This task needs to be jointly tackled by the government and the private sector.

The number of students wishing to study nuclear power has declined since the crisis started last year at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. In addition, many young people have become reluctant to take jobs in nuclear-related industries.

The seriousness of the Fukushima accident certainly is one factor behind these developments. Moreover, stances taken by prime ministers since the crisis began have negatively impacted the situation. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan abruptly announced that he wanted to free the country's future energy policy from its dependence on nuclear power generation, apparently without carefully considering the ramifications of such a change. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who succeeded Kan, has been slow in crafting specific policies on how to utilize nuclear power in this country.


Future vision needed

Fields devoid of future potential will be unable to attract talented personnel.

Yet, when considering an ideal combination of power sources for this nation, nuclear power will be essential along with thermal power and other energy sources. The government must clearly devise a future vision for the country's energy supply by squarely looking at reality.

Even if the government opts to depart from the country's dependence on nuclear power, Japan still will need human resources to tackle the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant and decommission reactors there. According to a plan compiled by the government and the utility, decommissioning the reactors and clearing up the site will take at least 40 years.

This lengthy operation will be shouldered by the children of today.

Furthermore, such work will require highly advanced technologies.

Safely removing and reducing radioactive contaminants at the nuclear plant will require more sophisticated robot and remote control technologies. Making estimates on the extent of the damage inside the crippled reactors, where people are still unable to enter, also will need the latest computer technology.

A wide array of research and development activities, as well as technological innovations, will be needed over a long period of time.

Capable personnel will have to be available to the nuclear regulatory agency, electric power companies and nuclear-related manufacturers to improve the safety of existing reactors through regulations, inspections and repairs. Strict safety controls are required around the clock even at idled nuclear reactors.


Japan has intl role to play

An option of replacing dated reactors with new models is expected to be discussed in the future. Electric utilities and nuclear-related manufacturers will have to nurture and train engineers capable of leading the design and building of these reactors.

Exports of nuclear power infrastructure--a field the government has been promoting--will be impossible without engineers well versed in safety regulatory measures of international standards.

Japan's neighboring countries, such as China and South Korea, have been constructing nuclear power plants one after another. With lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear crisis, international cooperation must be promoted to prevent the occurrence of a similar serious nuclear accident. In this field, too, experts will play vital roles.

Japan is a country with many reactors and a proponent of the peaceful use of nuclear power. Other nations expect Japan to contribute to such fields as nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear terrorism countermeasures at the International Atomic Energy Agency and in other international arenas.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is implementing projects to nurture human resources in the nuclear power field including subsidies to nuclear-related courses at universities and other educational institutes. We think the government should accelerate efforts to improve and expand such programs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 7, 2012)
(2012年4月7日01時30分 読売新聞)

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