Figures recently released by the Department of Energy indicate that the once-booming field of nuclear science continues to lose its appeal among young researchers--a trend that academic and government observers consider a growing threat to the United States nuclear industry.

The DOE statistics--tallies on university enrollment that the department collects annually--show a steadily declining number of young scientists enrolling in nuclear engineering departments in United States academic institutions.

It is these departments that produce the scientists who conduct the preponderance of both basic and applied nuclear research. Thus, the observers fear, as the erosion of interest persists, the field's future work force is bound to diminish below levels required for progress.

According to DOE, the number of undergraduate students enrolled in the discipline has reached an all-time low: from a high in 1977, with 2,095 students entering nuclear engineering, to 1,001 in 1991.

These and other numbers seem to support...

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