Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No To Nuclear Plant In Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi

Japan is going through amazing changes right now. The controversial proposal to build a new nuclear plant on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, Yamaguchi prefecture, has just been stopped by the governor of the prefecture, Sekinari Nii. NHK notes that Chugoku Electric Power Company was seeking to construct two reactors in the town of Kaminoseki, with a launch scheduled for 2018.

The governor says the central government has failed to properly outline Japan's future nuclear power policy and specific measures about nuclear power plant safety. He says the feasibility of the nuclear plant project itself has become vague.

NHK World: Yamaguchi Governor suspends nuclear plant project

Mainichi has more:

In a meeting with reporters following the session, Nii reiterated that the prefectural government will not extend permission under the current circumstances. "Chugoku Electric should continue its suspension of the reclamation work. As long as the current situation continues, we can't approve the extension even if we receive an application from the utility."

I mentioned the local struggle against the Kaminoseki nuclear plant back in April: Documentary Film Producer Hitomi Kamanaka: "Complex Feelings Of Sadness And Anger" based on a longer post over at Ten Thousand Things.

Activists have been holding around-the-clock protests on the beaches for 10 years, the town's Mayor is in favour of the project, and the power company claims it "does not understand" the strong opposition.

Top photo of the proposed site for the reactors from the Stop! Kaminoseki Genpatsu website. Click to enlarge!

Photos (right) from the Shimabito blog, with 4 images from different events this year as the local struggle intensified to stop the destruction of this region.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Major Media In Japan Starting To Get Very Concerned About Energy Issues

With no prospects that nuclear energy will provide Japan, the world's third largest economy, with enough power, all eyes are on oil and gas. Wedge, a Japanese news magazine, notes that the country's power plants will have to be moved away from dangerous areas. All nuclear plants may be shut down by the spring of next year, they note.

What will be the damage to Japan's economy?

Also, Friday and Gendai, Kodansha's "big hand media magazine" (oote media, 大手メディア)are suddenly concerned what will happen if more nuclear reactors are shut down, but they still show more naked female flesh... Yet in the past few weeks, lots of facts about what is going on at Fukushima Daichi... Reducing energy consumption is at least on the main-stream media agenda.

Sunday Mainichi is showing the devastation in Tohoku to remind people that this is going to be a very unusual summer.

Meanwhile, of course, there are immediate global repercussions (but NHK does not mention that increased use of oil and gas in Japan will influence the market):

NHK has learned that the International Energy Agency is finalizing talks to release emergency oil reserves of its oil-consuming member nations to help stabilize crude oil prices. The autonomous organization of 28 major oil consuming countries, including Japan and the United States, is said to be close to securing agreement for the coordinated operation.

The release operation, the first of its kind since 2005, is being planned ahead of an expected rise in gasoline use in the northern hemisphere during the summer holiday season. Rising crude oil prices since January, due mainly to the political upheaval in northern Africa and the Middle East, have put a brake on global economic growth. Observers say that the move is aimed to appease the United States, as gasoline prices there are hovering at high levels.

The IEA, founded in response to the oil crises of the 1970s, obliges its member nations to set aside emergency reserves of crude oil and gasoline equivalent to the amount they import in 90 days.
Thursday, June 23, 2011

NHK World: IEA asks for release of emergency oil reserves

If Japan starts to import a lot of oil & gas, do expect prices to rise. What we can do here of course is to reduce our energy consumption, and set a model. 2011 is going to be that kind of year. Everywhere. Already on March 11, Reuters noted that Japan quake may up gas demand:

LONDON | Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:20pm EST

LONDON (Reuters) - Emergency shutdowns of Japanese nuclear plants in the wake of an earthquake on Friday are likely to increase demand for liquefied natural gas by the world's biggest LNG consumer, driving up gas prices around the world.

The closure of four of Japan's nuclear plants, which between them can generate up to 11 gigawatts of electricity when fully operational, may also push up its demand for fuel oil and coal.

By Friday afternoon in London, hours after the quake hit, there was little certainty over how much fuel Japan will need or even be able to import, with parts of its coastal energy infrastructure battered by the quake and ensuing tsunami.

"The temporary shutdown of four nuclear plants will result in increased demand for fuel oil and spot LNG to make up for the shortfall in electric power generation," analysts at Bernstein Research said.

"While LNG demand will increase in the near term, one uncertainty is the damage to LNG-receiving terminals on the east coast."

British wholesale gas prices quickly surged on news of the nuclear shutdowns early on Friday as the biggest earthquake in Japan since records began revived memories of previous Japanese LNG buying sprees spurred by nuclear plant problems in the world's third largest atomic energy user.

"Such a reduction in nuclear generation is likely to increase the demand for spot LNG cargoes by Japan... provided there has been no damage to LNG regasification terminals, or gas-fired generation facilities in Japan," Barcap said in a research note on Friday.

"The potential for increased LNG demand out of Japan leads us to see upside risks to UK gas prices, as spare cargos would likely head to Japan first," the investment bank said.

The shutdown of 17 of Japan's 54 reactors in August 2002, for safety inspections, led to an 11-percent increase in Japan's LNG demand in the year that followed, according to Bernstein, while the three-year closure of the country's biggest atomic plant, the 8-GW Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station, from 2007 drove up LNG spot market prices sharply around the world.

"The last time the nukes were off, the spot cargo LNG prices rocketed," a UK power and gas trader said as UK gas prices for the coming summer raced to a record high of 60.75 pence on expectations of less super-cooled gas being delivered to north west Europe.

Coal sellers who typically fuel about a quarter of Japan's power supply should also see more sales -- increasing the country's emissions of climate warming carbon.

Independent LNG analyst Andy Flower said it would take up to 11 million tons of LNG to replace 11 GW of nuclear power generation over a year period, equal to nearly 15 percent of the maximum output of the world's biggest LNG supplier Qatar.

Fuel oil suppliers could boost sales into a market that has sidelined oil-fired power plants to a marginal peak supply role when the country's increasing number of cheaper gas plants and nuclear reactors cannot meet demand.


The extra demand for imports in a country that already imports about 85 percent of its energy could also boost shippers across Asia and beyond.

"With the disaster in Japan it is hard to see freight getting softer as the beleaguered country may well need gasoil from its neighbors to provide power while the nuclear plants are down," shipping brokers E.A. Gibson said in a note Friday.

In contrast to gas, which surged in the world's benchmark gas market in Britain, oil prices fell sharply. Japan imports nearly half of all its energy as crude, mostly from the Middle East -- shook

"Short term the disruption in activity will be clearly negative for Japanese oil demand, but you may find that post the initial impact of the tsunami, there will be a need to deliver oil products to demand if you suffer loss in refinery output," Harry Tchilinguirian, BNP Paribas' head of commodity markets strategy, said.

With 4 million homes without electricity as darkness fell, the extent of the damage to the four nuclear power stations was unclear, as was the state of the Shinminato LNG import terminal near Sendai City, which saw some of the worst damage and largest fires break out along the waterfront.
Snap Analysis: Japan quake may push up gas demand

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Israelis, Please Consider Helping Minami Sanriku Town: Listen To The Voice Of Endo Miki

Japan still needs lots of help for the Tohoku region. I was moved to tears again tonight reading the details about the Minami Sanriku town that I visited last weekend. From wikipedia (thanks for adding this):

Miki Endo (远藤未希), a 25 year old employee of the town's Crisis Management Department, was hailed in the Japanese news media as a heroine for continuing to broadcast warnings and alerts over a community loudspeaker system as the tsunami came in. She was credited with saving many lives. The three-storey headquarters of the department remained standing but was completely gutted, with only a red-colored steel skeleton remaining; in the aftermath of the disaster, Endo was missing and was later confirmed to have died. Photos show the roof of the building completely submerged at the height of the inundation, with some persons clinging to the rooftop antenna.
When we visited, we placed flowers and burned incense at the make-shift altar that have been placed in front of the remains of the Crisis Management Department building.

Some 10 people who made it up to the roof of this building actually survived even though the tsunami completely flooded the entire three-story building. What remains is just rubble and you have to admire the bravery of Endo-san and everyone in this hard-hit harbour town.

Now, however, there is news that this devastated town is asked to pay rent for a field hospital it erected in March. Some 50 Israeli doctors used it and it is said to be the first working hospital in the region after the disaster struck. For that, I'm sure the people in Minami Sanriku are very grateful, but the fact is, they will have to pay a bill of ¥2.1 million in its supplementary budget for this fiscal year to cover rental payments to the company that built the temporary structures, according to Kyodo/The Japan Times. Of course, one could ask the Japanese construction company to not ask for payments, but does anyone think they are having an easy time right now?

I am just wondering if this humble blog has any readers in Israel, who might try to do something to help.

The top image shows the Crisis Management Department building, middle image is from an article about Ms. Endo, and the bottom image is what remains of the large (but gutted) Minami Sanriku hospital (I don't have any images of the field hospital).

Video from NHK World with an interview where Ms. Endo's parent's describe how she chose to work in Minami Sanriku to be close to her parents, and that she was "very dedicated, and would never leave her position until she was told to."

"A hospital alone shows what war is." -Erich Maria Remarque

A Song For Japan

Trombonists from Japan and around the world perform for charity and to maintain awareness of the on going efforts to recover from the tragedies of March 11. "A song for Japan" is a beautiful piece, I think you will agree, written by Belgian trombonist Steven Verhelst. Enjoy.

Whether you play trombone or not, be sure to visit the website http://www.trombones.jp for more clips, information, free downloadable sheet music, t-shirts, artwork and tools to help you contribute to the cause through music. All profits go to the Japan Red Cross.

Special thanks to my high school buddy and fellow trombonist, Larry, who sent me the link.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Milky Way

Have you ever looked up in the night sky and seen the Milky Way? I was watching a few videos on YouTube and it suddenly dawned on me (excuse the pun) that most people have never actually seen the stars, as the "light pollution" totally blocks the view.

Here are a couple of videos of what our night sky really looks like, if we don't have city lights shining all the time, and no "light pollution" to obscure the beautiful view (this is what the ancients would have seen all the time, no wonder they had amazing stories about the universe).

I liked some of the comments:

Yep. It's also known as "light pollution", whereas light in urban areas actually ends up shining outward, towards the sky, rather than downwards, where it's needed. This obscures almost all the stars visible from Earth. It's actually quite difficult to get shots like this. You need absolute darkness, no moon, and you need to be there when the Milky Way actually "rises" like we see in the video. But it's really worth going the way to witness this.

have NEVER seen the sky like that. is it because i live in urban environment??

man I hate living in light polluted areas... I wish i lived out somewhere like this to see the night sky all the time.

The Japanese name, 銀河系 (ginga kei) means "galaxy" with the character for silver (gin) showing the way. Another common name is 天の川 (amanokawa) or "heavenly river" which sounds rather poetic! Here is a slow, beautiful time lapse movie of the Amanokawa from Lake Hakuba:

And here is a similar video from Kirigamine, Nagano, Japan, of sun rise and Milky Way rising:

I haven't done these posts recently, tagged "universe" but this is a good one:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Smart Grid Electricity Supply In Japan

Smart Grid is a concept that has gained some popularity, as many people are concerned about their electricity supply. Rather than just relying on a huge utility so provide your home or office with power, you could actually be a part of the supply system, if you have solar panels on your roof, for example.

Not so easy in Japan. There has been such a monopoly on electricity supply, that almost no discussion on Smart Grid has taken place, until of course now, when TEPCO is in dire straits and can no longer rely on nuclear power reactors to keep Tokyo's bright lights shining, and cannot even assure the public that their plan will work to cool down the destroyed Fukushima #1 reactors.

Smart Grid for Japan? Well, some people have tried to envision such a system, for example in Yokohama, a rather progressive city. Yet, it seems to be moving very slowly, with only 900 units of photovoltic systems installed by 2009, although they plan to install some 2000 ten years later, according to Nikkan.

Yokohama Smart City Project is trying to build a low-carbon society in a big city. Last October, AP/SF Gate noted:

The city of Yokohama, just southwest of Tokyo, is the site of a social and infrastructure experiment to create a smart city for the rest of the world to emulate. Begun this year, the Yokohama Smart City Project is a five-year pilot program with a consortium of seven Japanese companies - Nissan Motor Co., Panasonic Corp., Toshiba Corp., Tokyo Electric Power Co., Tokyo Gas Co., Accenture's Japan unit and Meidensha Corp.

"We want to build a social model to take overseas," said Masato Nobutoki, the executive director of Yokohama's Climate Change Policy Headquarters, during a keynote event at CEATAC. "Yokohama is a place where foreign cultures entered Japan 150 years ago and then spread to the rest of the country."

Now, he said, it's where the best of Japan is converging, preparing for expansion to the wider world.
AP/SFGate: Japan creating 'smart city' of the future

(Note that TEPCO was just included as an "observer" in the Yokohama project, clearly not something the nuclear power promoters were very enthusiastic about a year ago.)

At the Eco Products Trade Fair at Tokyo Big Site in 2010, Panasonic introduced one product that may be useful if you want to store your own electricity, and go off-grid completely. Their small sized 5 KWh lithium battery is to be placed outside of your home, and may run home appliances for about half a day. But how clever is this device really? It just consists of 140 usual small batteries, put together as one unit. Panasonic is also trying to promote a “Smart Energy Gateway” (SEG) for their Home Energy Management System (HEMS). Excuse me if I'm sceptical. We all need one of these, so why haven't they been developed already...? And it does seem awfully complicated (Note to whoever is in charge, the videos on the Panasonic website don't work).

(Photo: IT Media)

One of the companies involved in the Yokohama project is Solar Frontier, and I was impressed by their efforts to help the Tohoku region. They have supplied solar panels to the Futsukaichi Community Center in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture. The community center is currently sheltering 20 local residents. OK, a small contribution, but that is how we will have to think from now on: Small Efforts Can Make A Huge Difference For Tohoku.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Nuclear Power In Japan By 2012?

Something extraordinary is happening in Japan, one of the world's most pro--nuclear power coutries. Of the nation's 54 reactors, only 19 are currently up and running. The rest are either shut down for maintainence, check-ups or other regularly scheduled repairs. Or wrecked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

NHK notes that during the next few months, 5 more reactors will have to be shut down ahead of regular inspections, and if the utilities decide to keep these 40 reactors offline for the time being, Japan will have about 75 percent of its reactors shutdown this summer.

NHK World: 35 Japanese reactors are soon to be out of line

But that is not all. The Daily Yomiuri has looked at the schedule for the up-and-running reactors around the country, and notes that they also are about to be shut down, one by one, according to the safety rules that require inspections and maintainence. Thus, by next summer, Japan may have gone non-nuclear by default:

Japan has 54 nuclear reactors, of which 35 are currently not operating for one reason or another. Regular checkups will gradually lead to the suspension of the remaining 19 units by next summer. Since March 11, reactors halted for inspection have not been restarted. If this continues, all of the nation's nuclear plants will be off-line in a little more than a year.

Considering the ongoing crisis situation at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, utilities will likely have little chance of restarting suspended reactors without the approval of the surrounding communities. Without electricity from these nuclear plants, how will the nation maintain its power supply? Let us examine the circumstances in the communities that host nuclear plants and the issues that need to be solved if reactors are to begin operating again.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, 11 of the 15 nuclear reactors on the Pacific coast from the Tohoku to the Kanto regions were operating. These were automatically shut down when the strong tremor hit. Shortly after the quake, the Fukushima No. 1 plant was hit by a massive tsunami, which set off a series of serious problems.

Due to this ongoing crisis, there has been no prospect of resuming operations even at plants that suffered little damage in the disaster, such as TEPCO's Fukushima No. 2 plant, the Higashidori and Onagawa plants of Tohoku Electric Power Co., and the Tokai No. 2 plant of Japan Atomic Power Co.

In addition to reactors that were already suspended for regular checkups when the earthquake struck and the 11 reactors that shut down due to the disaster, Chubu Electric Power Co. suspended operations at two reactors at its Hamaoka nuclear plant in response to a request from Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The nation's 54 reactors have a total capacity of about 49,110 megawatts. Currently, 19 are running, with a combined capacity of about 16,550 megawatts, about one-third of maximum capacity.

Since each nuclear reactor must undergo a regular checkup every 13 months, the remaining reactors are scheduled to be suspended one after another over the coming months, with all of them shut down by next summer.

If the reactors that finish their checkups and plants that complete earthquake-resistance measures are not allowed to resume operations, the nation's power supply will be greatly affected.

As in accordance with the Electricity Enterprises Law, regular checkups last a few months and involve inspection of reactors' piping and peripheral equipment, disassembly and examination of emergency power generators, and checks on many other items, including turbines.

Nuclear fuel is also replaced and inspected by the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency during the checkups.
The Daily Yomiuri: Complete nuclear shutdown next summer?

124,000 People

NHK says 124,00 people are still displaced by the March 11 disaster in Tohoku.

As noted in my post about the Kurushii visit to Tohoku, there is lots and lots to do.

NHK: March disaster displaces over 124,000

Japan's Cabinet Office says more than 124,000 people were displaced by the March 11th disaster and the Fukushima nuclear crisis. The office says the displaced were living in more than 1,000 municipalities across the country as of June 2nd.

More than 41,000 were in emergency shelters, and about 32,500 were living with relatives and friends. Around 50,000 were living outside the 3 hardest-hit prefectures --- Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. Nearly 80 percent of them were from Fukushima.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Coastal Area In Tohoku Still Needs Lots & Lots Of Help Part 1

I went up to Fukushima and Miyagi prefecture this weekend. 4 vans and 11 people, lots of boxes with donated clothes, food, rubber boots, books, manga, toys, candy, umbrellas, ladies undergarments; no gaudy colours or "posh frocks" please, but aprons, summer trousers, hats, gloves... Mostly all new stuff, as this team from Hanno, Saitama has been up there before and knows exactly what the requests are.

Miyagi in particular has a large number of small villages with different needs along the coast. While we all know the tsunami was as big as 20 meters or more in some areas, the debris still left after three months tell the real story: the tsunami was relentless, it came in and out, again and again, sweeping houses off their foundations, boats up on land (and up on roofs of buildings), and back into the sea again, mixing with all the debris. There are cars everywhere as if thrown around by the huge hand of a giant. Some 30,000 people dead/missing.

We got an early start around 1:30AM and drove up through Fukushima and watched the sun come up, had a quick rest and pressed on. Passing Sendai City, the first signs of disaster. Then up along the coast, passing Ishinomaki (read Our Man in Abiko's tales from his visit recently, with videos) and further up into the hills of Miyagi, north of Minami Sanriku. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful landscape, great rice fields reaching to the horizon, and all a lush green this time of the year. Farming is a major source of income, and everyone has a kitchen garden or vinyl houses.

Further up and towards the coast, suddenly the sign of disaster. So near the Pacific Ocean, the tsunami really hit the coastal areas, and people are still in a bad way, and need a lot of help.

We went to about 4 different locations, talking to local people that this team has visited several times before. This team will always call before going, to get the latest updates and requests. Just after arriving, we start unloading boxes, and if there are people who hesitate, the bags of blueberries are particularly good as ice-breakers and starting a conversation...

Kids were fantastic, so happy to get to select among hundreds of books and manga that had been donated here in Hanno. But there are also adults who are very reluctant to talk, just showing up for minutes, then leaving: a lot of people have lost everything, maybe lost their kids, relatives, and there is no work. I noticed some that did not tend to hang around for very long where there was a crowd of merry people rummaging through boxes of donated goods. Trauma? I cannot even begin to imagine what they have gone through.

I made a short video as a slideshow of photos I took over the weekend, they do at least tell a story.

There is so much more that this entire region needs, not just in this small area of Miyagi prefecture.

There are many questions in my mind too, after having done the trip at 120 km/h on the highways, then less than 20 km/h on the hilly roads, just recently cleared from rubble, near Utatsu Village and Minami Sanrikyo Port...

Do consider donating and contributing in any way you can.

Read more: Small Efforts Can Make A Huge Difference For Tohoku

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Anti-Nuclear Demonstrations June 11 All Over Japan

I can't count the number of anti-nuclear demonstrations going on today all over Japan. There are 2 big events in Tokyo, there is a "Peace Walking" parade in Date, Fukushima, as well as large events in Sapporo, Fukuoka and Yokohama. And many more places - I'm following a few of them as they use Twitter and upload photos. Live-blogging from your event? Let me know!

Those who have organized anti-nuclear protests in Tokyo and the organizations called e-shift and Fukushima Genpatsu Jiko Kinkyu Kaigi (Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Emergency Congress) are jointly calling citizens of not just Japan but the world for the action against nuclear power on the day of the three-month-anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.

What is “e-shift”? (A society to fulfill denuclearization and new energy policy):

In the wake of the nuclear accident at Fukushima 1st plant on March 11, 2011, this society was established with groups and people who decided to fulfill denuclearization and the natural energy-oriented sustainable energy policy.

1. “Minimization of accident damage” and “Clarification where responsibility lies”

2. “Creation of recommendations for denuclearization and sustainable energy policy” and “Fulfillment of the recommendations”

3. “Transmission of valuable information to citizens “ and “Creation of social movements”

Images (top) promoting the Sapporo event, billed as a "Picnic Demo" and (bottom) the Saitama "Peace-act" event)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Small Efforts Can Make A Huge Difference For Tohoku

I wasn't sure about this, but for a local effort here were I live, I was able to raise over 180,000 Yen from a Swedish tour company, and we are of course happy to receive more. I just want to make sure you, dear Kurashi readers, long-suffering as most of you most likely are, do NOT think I am suddenly using this blog to ask for money. In fact, most of you who live here have probably already put a couple of coins in the local 7-11 box.

From what I hear, every Yen matters. The good people at Peace Boat will help you if you want to personally go on a few days of journey to Tohoku. There are other ways you can help, of course.

From abroad, the Japanese Red Cross is still the best option, do ask your local/national Red Cross chapter how that works from where you live. The Japan Red Cross has a long history here, and they may be a bit slow, but if that is the best option, rather than going for some unknown entity, then you will at least rest assured that your contribution will reach people in need. Be careful and avoid strange emails (although so far, I haven't heard of any such attempts).

My local outfit, Far East Inc. has a lot of stuff they want to send to Tohoku. They have a major challenge: the cost of gas.

A one way trip to Fukushima from Hanno, Saitama costs about 20,000 Yen including Highway Toll Fees. Round trip, 40,000 Yen. Thus, as people happily give stuff for the people in small towns up there, knowing they need a lot, it is not just a matter of the goods, we also need cash and people to bring the stuff, to the people. And gasoline is NOT cheap. In fact, it has probably never been more dear.

Yesterday, as I went to their warehouse, I was impressed by the amount of boxes. I do hope all of the donated stuff can reach the people who are in need.

My email is listed under the "about" section. I hope you will get in touch in case you have ideas about donations to our small, but not insignificant, project!