Investigating post-disaster public perceptions of energy security and nuclear energy in Ukraine

Monica Nagashima
Faculty of Environment and Information Studies
From: Japan and Ukraine
Theme of Research or Project: Addressing Energy Security in Ukraine

Focusing on energy security in Ukraine

I was born in Japan, then my family moved to Russia and later Ukraine where I was brought up for several years, before attending and graduating from international school. I was keen to return to Japan to study, and was looking for a program in English with a scientific focus – most international programs are focused on international relations or liberal arts. The GIGA Program was a perfect fit, and was better value than similar programs that I found in Canada or the UK. The flexibility of the program turned out to be tremendously valuable for me. As my interests changed throughout the four years of the course I was able to talk to different professors and study new things, whereas in a different university I would need to stay focused in one area. The GIGA program provides introductory courses in many fields, and builds language ability at the same time, and there is a lot of support from other members of seminar groups. I set out with the intention to do research on depression from a biological perspective, but the exposure to different complementary fields of study broadened my world view so that I was able to realize where my true passions lie, and to realign my research accordingly. I became more interested in sustainability aspects in the application of technologies, and shifted my focus eventually toward energy security. My final goal now is to analyze the perceptions of nuclear energy in Ukraine, with experience of a major nuclear accident, and how that relates to public awareness of energy security issues and other forms of energy, including renewables. My research will be conducted using an Internet-based questionnaire in Ukraine, seeking to understand the psychological influence of the history of nuclear power. While the project has a strong people orientation, I am also interested to find out which factors play the strongest role in the selection of energy sources, whether economical, health and safety, or availability, and whether there is a gap between the policies implemented by the government and the understanding of people. I personally believe that in the future the best energy mix will consist mostly of renewable energies, but at the present time while costs are still relatively high, I think that nuclear remains one of the best energy choices. I have also been researching the relationship between energy security, biomass energy, and agriculture in the context of rural population decline in Ukraine.

Valuable Experiences: Global Environmental Issues leadership program and internship

One highlight of the program was the opportunity to attend a five-week Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSIs) for Student Leaders on Global Environmental Issues leadership program held in the US, where I was truly inspired by my fellow students, strengthening my belief that this was the field I wanted to pursue. Also the passion of other students in my research group for their own subject was a great inspiration for me.

In the future I hope to build on this experience to go on to work as a policy maker in an international organization like the UN, the World Bank, or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, working on energy security and environmental issues. I also completed a short internship at a renewable energy company in Iwate, which further convinced me that sustainability and energy are the paths I wish to follow.

How I arrived at my project theme

In the first year I undertook research on depression from a biological perspective, as part of a collaborative project with the School of Medicine at Keio University. However, after taking ‘Local Development in Asia’ I came to realize the importance of community engagement and thorough consideration of possible outcomes for sustainable development. I then joined a seminar on international development, where through the study of behavioral economic theories I learned about people’s decision making processes, and the process of community engagement in environmental and energy policy decisions.

Note: Titles, affiliations, student years, etc. indicated for individuals are accurate at the time of January 2015.