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2012-06-08. Growing Distaste for Nuclear Power Dims Prospects for R&D

posted Jun 19, 2012, 11:38 AM by Lisa Ou
 | by Dennis Normile, Science. An article relevant to GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: The Japanese government promised a sweeping review of the country's nuclear-centric energy policy…Targets for nuclear power range from 35% of generating capacity down to zero—a total nuclear phase-out...While that scenario would not require Japan to go cold turkey on nuclear power, it would rule out building new reactors for the immediate future. It would also cloud prospects for R&D. Governmental support for nuclear research has already declined for more than a decade and is now shifting to decontamination and decommissioning studies. Utilities will have less incentive to invest in nuclear R&D. Already, universities are taking a hit: Enrollments in nuclear energy departments at seven universities dropped 16% for the school year starting on 1 April, according to Kyodo News. The cumulative effect will be “a gap in knowledge and expertise in the future,” says Hisashi Ninokata, a nuclear engineer who recently retired from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Ninokata and others worry that this gap will leave Japan poorly equipped to develop and deploy advanced reactors and maintain a nuclear power option in the face of uncertainties surrounding global energy markets and the capabilities of renewables. “Japan should continue fundamental studies” in nuclear energy, says Satoru Tanaka, a nuclear engineer at the University of Tokyo and president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan. But in putting their case to policy-makers and the public, nuclear scientists and engineers are clearly on the defensive….Read more: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6086/1220.summary