You can’t say something is scary if you don’t even know about it Make your judgement after you get to know it
In September 1999, Japan’s first criticality accident occurred at a nuclear fuel processing facility in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture. Criticality occurs when a nuclear fission chain reaction continues at a certain rate. Even though criticality was brought under control about 20 hours after the incident, 3 workers were exposed to massive radiation, and more than 600 people, including residents of the surrounding area, were also exposed to radiation. This incident had a major impact on daily life, with evacuations, orders to stay indoors, train service suspensions, and road closures. Watching all these on the news was a high school student on a school trip. That student was Ms. Yuko Yamamoto, who later studied quantum energy engineering at the School of Engineering at Tohoku University and is currently a researcher at the Research & Innovation Center of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., a manufacturer of nuclear reactors. She says, “While on a school trip, I was watching TV and almost all of the news was about the criticality accident. The news reports on nuclear power were delivered with a scary tone, and my classmates were also saying how scary it was. At the time, I thought, ‘I don’t know much about nuclear power and I don’t understand it. But I don’t want to be afraid of it without knowing anything about it.’”
Ms. Yamamoto loved physics, and she was thinking of studying engineering at university, but she was still unsure about what to choose for her major. She explains, “Because of the accident, I felt a strong desire to understand nuclear power generation well enough to be able to explain it in my own words. If I were to be afraid of it, I want to be afraid of it after knowing the logic behind it.” Having narrowed down her choice to nuclear engineering, she began to look for a university. One of the few options was Tohoku University’s School of Engineering, Department of Quantum Science and Energy Engineering. Before taking the university entrance exam, she went on a trip to Sendai with her parents, and she visited the Aobayama Campus which housed the School of Engineering. “The campus on top of a mountain was huge, and I felt I could experience many other things aside from studying nuclear power. I also had a good impression on the city of Sendai,” she says.