Thursday, May 31, 2012


End of May, 2012, and I need almost no electricity to stay put (or stay sane). I can unplug my electric toilet seat heater, and except for the old fridge and the new Sony laptop, I guess I'm no real threat to the power grid.

Japan does, however, still have major industries like steel and aluminum factories, and all kinds of high tech companies that are worried about competition from China and elsewhere.

Seems to me that with the larger problem looming, such as what to do with spent nuclear fuel, what Japan needs to do is to figure out a way to get us out of this mess. Some 10,000 years later, people are still going to ask, "What the heck were these people thinking...?"

In other words, how much steel and plastics and other high-energy-consuming products do we really need?

I suppose that includes fertilizers and all kinds of stuff needed for "modern" farming like vinyl for the houses for winter tomatoes...

Thus, it is good to read that the venerable government of Japan is now considering 4 options:

The options presented Monday call for the government to seek a society in which nuclear power represents either zero percent, 15 percent, or 20 to 25 percent of the nation's electricity provision by 2030, compared with 26 percent in fiscal 2010.

So there you have it. Japan could go the way of Denmark or Norway, just to mention two countries that have done very well without nuclear reactors. Or, it could go the way of France, or the US. 

The current panel includes antinuclear experts, including Tetsunari Iida, head of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies.

ISEP is a third party organization independent from government and industry, aiming at realization of sustainable energy policy. ISEP was founded by environmentalists and professionals who are the experts in the area of global warming and energy issues. Our activities include advocacy and advice to government and municipalities on how to develop renewable energy and energy saving policies, and organization of symposiums and international conferences with regard to renewable energy. Our activities mainly cover the following five projects.

Links related to 省エネ (shou-ene) "renewable energy" or "saving energy" in Japan:

ISEP Global Status Report
MEEC (Green Local Government Portal)
Sustainable Zone

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dealing With Energy And Saving Power In Clever Ways: Osaka

Japan is going through changes that are hard to keep up with. I like it! I started blogging in May, wow it was 7 years ago, and it is still fun. Hope you all enjoy it too. Mostly of course I stick to food topics but energy topics are so interesting.

So, how are you saving electricity this summer...?

Image from The Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman, a great blog if you like a bit of Swedish humour.

Jiji/The Japan Times just had this today that is full of great ideas about saving electricity:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kepco plans to buy back saved power

OSAKA — Kansai Electric Power Co. will introduce a megawatt trading scheme under which the utility will buy saved electricity from large-lot corporate customers through auctions.

Kepco is boasting it will be the first Japanese power-supply firm to use such a mechanism.

Under the scheme, the utility will put out to tender a specific amount of electricity that it wants customers to save on a certain day between July 2 and Sept. 7, when electricity demand is expected to reach more than 97 percent of supply capacity.

The company will put up details, such as the dates, timing and amounts, on Fridays and continue settling deals from the lowest-priced bids until the day before to secure sufficient electricity reserves.

Some 7,000 large-lot customers in Kepco's service area can participate in the bidding by stating how much electricity they will save on a specific day and for how much.

If a successful bidder fails to save at least 90 percent of the promised amount of electricity, it will have to pay a fine to the power firm.

Kepco also plans to introduce a power-saving promotional mechanism for business customers that use an electricity management system, which controls the use of electricity for lighting, air conditioning and other uses at offices and plants.

The company will ask such customers, through energy management firms, to save certain amounts of electricity ahead of the day on which electricity is expected to be in short supply.

In exchange for the saved electricity, Kepco will pay bonuses to the customers and management firms.


Osakans urged to go out

OSAKA — The Osaka Prefectural Government will start a campaign to encourage residents to spend more time out of their houses during summer to cut electricity use for home air conditioners.

The campaign comes after the central government earlier this month asked customers of Kansai Electric Power Co., including those in Osaka Prefecture, to cut electricity use by 15 percent from 2010.

As part of the campaign, the prefectural government will seek support from the private sector, including department stores and movie theaters.

It will open a website in mid-June to list the companies that are helping out.

Major retailer Aeon Co. is considering discounting products during peak electric use hours, while Osaka government-affiliated museums and swimming pools will offer discounts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Robert Kenner In Japan

Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner visited Japan in May, 2012 to talk about agrobusiness and the problems of genetically modified organisms (GMO). He visited Japanese organic farmer Uozumi-san in Ibaraki, north of Tokyo, who has developed his crops since 1974 with natural methods, connecting mountain forests, farm and the ocean. Consumers Union of Japan and the Japan Citizens' Network for Sustainable Food and Agriculture organized the trip.

From an interview with The Ecologist:

LS: What was the most shocking aspect of making the film?

RK: There were two things. One was early on when we went to a hearing about whether to label cloned meat. A representative from the meat industry said it would be 'too confusing for the consumer'. I realised I had entered an Orwellian world where people are being 'protected' by not being told.

Then when I asked food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyck what food she eats and she couldn't answer me or she'd be sued. I realised it was not a film about food: it was a film about rights. Seeing how food products now have more rights than individuals - that was more frightening than seeing how the food was produced.

LS: In the film there is a focus on the food system in the US - does the situation apply to the rest of the world?

RK: This is not a film about the US. I thought of filming in other countries and you could have been told the exact same story. It might have started in the US, but it is spreading. It's starting to happen here and it happens in Asia.

The Ecologist: Robert Kenner: Big Food will do everything to stop you talking about this

Visiting An Organic Farm In Japan With Food, Inc. Director Robert Kenner

Just a few images from last week's trip to Ibaraki prefecture with Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner and his wife, part of the biodiversity events here in Japan.

Robert got to see how a small-scale farm can work with over 120 different crops. This is the future of food. We went there together with Harata-san from the Kansai-based effort to promote information and knowledge about biological diversity, not only in Japan but all over Asia and - needless to say, around the world.

Japan Citizens' Network for Sustainable Food and Agriculture (J)

Consumers Union of Japan (E)

There is no such thing as "nationalism" when it comes to crops or species that have evolved over millions of years.

I liked how Robert Kenner was able to transcend a lot of the issues and cut to the chase.

Soy - so important here in Japan for a lot of stuff you take for granted in the food we eat every day in Japan, like soy sauce, miso, and natto, as well as eda-mame, dried beans. No artificial additives necessary! For hundreds of years. Growing a lot of grains and vegetables is the key to solving the global food problem, not the GMO doctrine imposed by a few multinational corporations. What we need is more diversity, not less.

Rice - of course even more a matter of political debate, as the "free" trade promoting people think agriculture should be abandoned, so that industry and manufacturing can prevail. In Japan, there is a balance, but that is not appreciate by other trade partners. Or is it? With the TPP I sense a change in approach. TPP negotiators in 2012 need to come back to earth, and visit places like Uozumi-san's farm.

How about it?

This is a great commentary from The Mainichi,  Takao Yamada:

Fighting TPP with 'reverence' for farming and 'expulsion' of consumer culture

Under a cloudy sky, Akira Sudo is seen amidst his rice paddies in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, on Aug. 3. (Mainichi)
Under a cloudy sky, Akira Sudo is seen amidst his rice paddies in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, on Aug. 3. (Mainichi)
I can't seem to make sense of the ongoing debate on Japan's possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade zone (TPP). I think it's the pro-TPP attitude of "let's open Japan up to the world" that rubs me the wrong way. I never noticed us being under a policy of "sakoku" -- or isolation -- like the one that had been implemented by the Tokugawa shogunate for some 200 years until U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived with his black ships in 1853. It has been unnatural the way the TPP issue has been framed for the public and the way the debates have been carried out, all in an effort to convince the public of the righteousness of TPP participation.

That the Japanese government feels that it has to go along with the U.S. pursuit of open markets because it is indebted to the U.S. for national security reasons is understandable. However, neither the Noda administration nor the media have any fundamental ideas on how to strike the right balance between liberalization and regulation, and on the direction in which the country should be taken. At the root is a sense that we are merely drifting about.
Farmer and poet Kanji Hoshi, 76, who has been engaged in organic farming for 38 years in the Yamagata Prefecture town of Takahata, is adamantly opposed to Japan's TPP participation. While it is standard for the media to showcase arguments for and against TPP, here, I'll only talk about Hoshi because there's no sense of drifting in his argument.

Hoshi started farming in 1954, at the age of 19. Not long afterward came the 1961 enactment of the Agricultural Basic Law, whose objective was to increase productivity and income. Agriculture grew more and more mechanized, and along with the heavy use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and herbicides, led to greater harvests. At the same time, however, food safety began to crumble and the problem of environmental pollution grew serious.

In 1973, the Organic Agriculture Association was established in Takahata, with Hoshi at its helm. In "Fukugo osen" (Complex contamination), a true-to-life novel that was serialized in a newspaper between 1974 and 1975 and caused a great sensation, author Sawako Ariyoshi included an anecdote about biting into one of Hoshi's chemical-free apples.

It goes without saying that organic, chemical-free farming is hard. Hoshi was ridiculed for "trying to go back to the Edo period," but he continued to explore new methods and repeatedly made mistakes. It was through his activism against the spraying of pesticides from helicopters that he found like-minded comrades. Eventually, in an act of revenge, Hoshi harvested sparking, tortoiseshell-like brown rice, for which he was awarded the gold medal in a nationwide contest.
Through long-term efforts, loaches, fireflies, river snails and meadowhawk dragonflies returned to the land. Organic agriculture was now well established in Takahata. Hoshi is part of a network comprising over 100 consumer groups and rice sellers, and has had opportunities to exchange ideas with university instructors and students pursuing environment, life and agriculture.

Hoshi is the author of an essay called "Sonno joi no shiso: han TPP no chiiki ron" (The philosophy of revere agriculture, expel the barbarians: anti-TPP localism), published in May 2011 in the book, "Takahata-gaku" (Takahataology). In it, he writes: "I would like the philosophy of revering agriculture and expelling the barbarians to be the stronghold against the black ships of TPP," Hoshi writes. "We need to give primary importance to agriculture for its production of food for life, and to justly appreciate its function of protecting the environment. If we destroy our beautiful homeland, we will not be able to face our descendents. 'Expel the barbarians' refers to the elimination of our disposable consumer civilization. We need to possess a set of values necessary to live simply and spiritually rich in a mature society, and let us attempt self realization."

In this essay, Hoshi categorically states that TPP participation will devastate Japanese agriculture. Our dinner tables will be filled with imported products whose manufacturers and processors we don't know, sacrificing food safety, and rural landscapes will be destroyed, Hoshi says, and warns that local communities themselves will collapse.

Pro-TPP advocates say that domestic agriculture must be revived in a way that it will be able to withstand market liberalization. And by "revival," what they mean is boost "profitable agriculture" aimed for since the Agricultural Basic Law was implemented to a "more profitable agriculture." They argue that agriculture must also contribute to economic growth. Hoshi, however, sees the value in agriculture that protects something that is different from economic growth.

Both domestically and internationally, financial, economic and social shockwaves are expected to become increasingly intense and contradictions are bound to balloon. We may well reach a time when no amount of money can buy us food. Does the light of the 21st century side with economic growth and money-making? Or does it side with Hoshi's hands-on practice and knowledge? This is the question that needs to be asked. (By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)

Monday, May 28, 2012


I had a chance to see some Japanese native bees up close at Uozumi-san's amazing organic farm in Ibaraki. They are very calm compared to European bees, not aggressive (or so I was told) and less noisy!

They also have an amazing defense mechanism against larger insects... (from BBC)

"Japanese honeybee kills steamed and heated to 50 Celsius in the population the Giant Hornet. Giant Hornet dies at 48 Celsius."

More videos about Bee Keeping in Japan on Youtube.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Food, Inc. Director Robert Kenner in Japan

Compared to the tobacco industry, the food producers have been flying under the radar for a long time. Robert Kenner made a documentary that would make you think twice.

Now he comes to Japan.


Food Inc. Director Robert Kenner To Visit Tokyo And Osaka

Consumers Union of Japan is glad to be able to invite US documentary director Robert Kenner to Japan. His film Food Inc. is a great exposure of the way the food industry and especially Monsanto have hijacked farming and food processing, creating a situation where it is almost impossible for consumers to know what we are eating.

While the focus is on the US agribusiness, it also applies to practices in many other countries, and the frequent abuse against farmers, food factory workers, animals and the biodiversity on our planet.

Robert Kenner is an Emmy-Award winning film maker. He will participate at three screening events and give talks while in Japan. Everyone is welcome!

Tokyo: May 19 (Sat) 13:30-18:00
Tokyo Women’s Plaza (Omotesando station)
Entrance Fee: 1,000 Yen

Tokyo: May 21 (Mon) 14:00-16:00
House of Representatives 2nd Bldg, Multi-purpose Hall (1st Floor)
(衆議院第2議員会館 1階 多目的ホール)
Entrance Fee: Free

Osaka: May 22 (Tue) 13:30-17:30
Osaka International House Center
Entrance Fee: 1,000 Yen

Organized by Japan Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food and Agriculture

Friday, May 18, 2012

Support GMO Labelling


Pure food activist Ronnie Cummins says:

Dear Organic Consumer,

With just nine days to go until our May 26 deadline, our ‘Drop the Money Bomb on Monsanto’ campaign is generating more excitement than I ever imagined possible. Each day more people, more websites, more media outlets join in this unprecedented, coordinated effort to raise enough money to fight back against Big Biotech and Food Inc. and to – finally – win the right to know if our food contains GMOs.
If you haven’t already pitched in, please make a donation soon. If you have already contributed, please forward this week’s issue of Organic Bytes to friends, or share it with your social media networks.
We need your help today to raise $1 million for the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. If we reach our goal by May 26, we will receive a matching $1 million gift from, Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, Eden Foods and a number of public interest organizations.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking directly with some of you who have called in to make donations. Many of you have thanked OCA for bringing so many groups together around this cause. Twenty years ago, when the FDA outrageously declared that genetically modified foods were “substantially equivalent” to unmodified foods, and therefore would not be labeled, we and our allies didn’t have large email lists, Internet fundraising capabilities, or social media. We couldn’t have waged a massive campaign like this.

Read more about GMO labels in Japan at the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) website. Over at Consumers Union of Japan we want the rules to be expanded to all GMOs, and make sure that the current limit of 5% is lowered so that shoppers who want to avoid biotech food can get the same information that is available in the EU where the limit is 0.9%. More details here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Monsanto, Mercury Poison, And You Provide The Rest

Using mercury to produce all kinds of useful items, like PVC, containing methyl mercury; but it was discharged into Hyakken Harbor. Minamata Disease is a very well known part of post WW2 Japan history. Such chemical poisoning was a huge reason that Japan today has very strict rules about toxic chemicals.

But this is Kurashi. Dear reader, I know you expect some beauty, some sense of distance, as in "we have made mistakes in the past, we may make them again..."

Yes, we are human, and we tend to be flawed.

But, I was surprised to learn that in the United States, Monsanto and other chemical companies have been able to hide any such effects that their activities may have had.

Elizabeth Bluemink / Anniston Star (AL) 20jul01
Monsanto contamination now gets scrutiny after 30 years

A new chapter expands Calhoun County's pollution story. This time, it's mercury.
For more than 30 years, historic mercury discharges in the Anniston community have gone unprobed, an investigation by The Anniston Star found. Industrial-released mercury entered the environment decades ago, but no one is sure how much is out there or where it is.
Monsanto Corp.'s chemical plant in western Anniston used mercury and lead, both neurotoxicants, to produce the raw materials for PCBs in the 1950s and '60s.
Before the discovery of PCB and lead pollution in local streams, ditches and low-income neighborhoods, Monsanto operated a caustic soda and chlorine plant that sent as many as 40-50 tons of liquid mercury into its waste stream, company records show. Fifty tons is the equivalent of 10 dump truck loads.
Monsanto employees swept mercury spills into drainage ditches leading to the plant's storm sewer, where traps recovered elemental mercury for reuse. Periodically, Monsanto employees cleaned out the mercury ditches and traps, according to documents provided to The Star by Solutia Inc., Monsanto's spin-off company.
However, an emulsion of mercury, mercuric chloride and other chemicals also went to the company storm sewer and was not recoverable, according to Jim Bryant, a former research chemist who worked at the plant. "Without further treatment, none of the mercury in the emulsion would have been recovered."
"I don't know how you could quantify the losses of that stuff," Bryant said. "It was a primitive system."
There is no evidence to show that Monsanto discharged lead in a similar manner.
Today's state officials claim that until 1999 they were not aware that Monsanto had used mercury, yet former state officials were aware of the fact in 1970, Star archives show.

While Minamata Disease is widely know in Japan, I wonder why there are no such effects recorded in other parts of the world. 

Chisso, the Japanese company that made PVC and PCB, but for years, Chisso Corporation had hidden its use of mercury from the public eye. On November 2, 1959, a riot by local fishermen destroyed Chisso Corporation property. This act of violence succeeded in bringing the matter to the Japanese public's attention. It took another 10 years until 1968, when the Japanese government acknowledged the source of the poisonings, and chemical dumping was finally halted.

Was it really halted?

Chisso expands polyvinyl formal

16 December 1991 00:00  [Source: ICB]

CHISSO CORP of Japan has announced plans to expand its capacity for the manufacture of Vinylec, its polyvinyl formal resin used as a coating for magnetic wires in transformers. The move follows the signing of a letter of intent with Monsanto whereby Chisso would acquire the assets of Monsanto's Formvar polyvinyl formal resins business.
Chisso plans to scrap its existing 700 tonne/year production facility at Minamata, Japan, and build a new 2000 tonne/year plant to begin operations at the beginning of 1993.
Monsanto says it is to delay the shutdown of its Formvar facility in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, until inventory is sufficient to meet customers' anticipated needs through 1992.
Negotiations to sell the assets of the Formvar business began several months ago as part of Monsanto Chemical's restructuring. Monsanto says Formvar does not fit the company's long-term business strategy. The price, which is still under negotiation, has been reported in the region of Yen300-500m ($2.3-3.9m). The deal is expected to be concluded by January.

Image from Mercury In Your Home

Famous, Infamous U.S. Nuclear Sites, Chernobyl and Fukushima

We tend to focus on Chernobyl and now more recently Fukushima, when talking about places that have massive amounts of nuclear radiation, with (possibly) all kinds of harmful effects on living beings. How about firmly adding the U.S. nuclear sites from back in the 1940s to that list?

Make sure the Manhattan Project sites are on your map: Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Dayton, Ohio; and Hanford, Washington... All these locations in the United States are as radioactive as ever, and currently clean-up efforts are being studied by experts from Japan.

Kyodo reporter Ben Dooley writes:

A group of Japanese scientists, government officials and company representatives visited the sleepy town of Richland, Washington, in February to seek advice on cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
They hoped to find answers at the Hanford Site, a complex of decommissioned nuclear reactors and processing facilities that once turned out plutonium for the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The roughly 1,500-sq.-km desert facility in Benton County, which housed the first large-scale plutonium-making reactor in the world and was involved in the Manhattan Project, is now known as possibly the most heavily contaminated area in the Western Hemisphere.
As a result, one of the largest and most expensive environmental cleanup projects in history is under way to dispose of the billions of liters and millions of tons of toxic waste dumped at the site, now controlled by the U.S. Energy Department.
The process has attracted the interest of Tokyo, which is hoping to apply lessons from Hanford to mop up the radioactive fallout spewed over vast areas by the Fukushima No. 1 plant's crippled reactors last year.
But American experts say there are no easy answers.
"There isn't really a magic bullet," said Wayne Johnson, a division director at the U.S. government's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where the Japanese delegation met with nuclear cleanup specialists.
"There are many areas of similarity and things that definitely they could learn from (Hanford), but there are also many differences," Johnson said.
One option is to remove tainted soil from the area, and such operations have been running at Hanford 24/7 since 1996. Every few minutes, a truckload of irradiated topsoil from the site is dumped into a massive pit more than six stories deep and covering an area equivalent to 52 football fields.

But hang on,  what about the other U.S. sites? All where part of the highly secretive government project to make atomic bombs, as Germany had similar ideas back in the 1930s and 1940s. What is not usually known is how American corporations like DuPont and Monsanto provided tens of thousands of workers and expertise to the war effort. Chemical companies obviously had the scientists on board that could do the job. Monsanto, in fact, was crucial in the work to produce the plutonium for the Nagasaki atom bomb:

C. H. Thomas of the Monsanto Chemical Company acted as chairman of a committee on the Chemistry and Metallurgy of Plutonium. This committee correlated the activities of the Metallurgical Laboratory with those at Los Alamos (see Chapter XII) and elsewhere. Later the Monsanto Chemical Company did some work on important special problems arising in connection with the Los Alamos work.

Atomic Archive: Chapter VII. The Plutonium Production Problem

Monsanto was also in charge of the dubious work at Dayton, Ohio. And after WW2, Monsanto and Mitsubishi Chemical quickly established links to produce all kinds of synthetic materials, first in 1951, when the name was Mitsubishi Monsanto (J) and then as they started producing PVC plastics in 1952 the joint company was called Mitsubishi Chemical MKV Company. "Good chemistry for tomorrow" is their cheerful logo today, some 60 years later!

No wonder Mitsubishi was one of the early players in Japan when it came to nuclear energy. I think, after last year's disaster, all involved need to think very hard and deeply about their role in this global mess that they created.

Image source: Mitsubishi Monsanto tank.

At Dayton, however, the good people feel they are not getting the recognition other famous U.S. nuclear sites are getting.

Jim DeBrosse at Dayton Daily News reported back in 2004:

Charles Allen Thomas was one of dozens of scientists who lay in the desert sand of Alamogordo, N.M., in the predawn gloom of July 16, 1945, waiting for a frightening new era in human history to begin.
Twenty miles away, atop a 100-foot tower, was the world's first atomic bomb, code-named Trinity and equipped with a polonium trigger designed and developed in Dayton by a team of hundreds of researchers and technicians led by Thomas, research director at Dayton's Monsanto Chemical Company.
If the trigger didn't work, the bomb wouldn't work, and the $2 billion invested in the Manhattan Project, as well as the concentrated efforts of thousands of the nation's best physicists, chemists and mathematicians over the past three years, would have been for nothing.
At 5:29 a.m., the final warning flare was thrown: the A-test was just a minute away. Thomas and the others held plates of smoked glass over their eyes, making the darkness even darker. No one said a word.
"Then all of a sudden there was an intense speck of light," Thomas wrote in a memo 10 days later. "This grew to a giant ball which rose rapidly in the air - it was awful! ... It was literally a sun coming up too close."


Historians and local officials say they believe that Dayton is not being given its proper due, since the trigger was a crucial part of the bombs and because the pioneering employees at Dayton's Monsanto facilities risked their lives to develop the bombs' triggers with the highly radioactive element polonium.
"The Dayton Project should certainly be part of this park system," said James M. Maroncelli, co-author of The Traveler's Guide to Nuclear Weapons and a Web site ( detailing what's left of the Manhattan Project and the nation's early A-bomb program.
Prior to Dayton's contribution, pure polonium existed only in theory. Here it was produced, purified and harnessed for the first time in a crash program that took place in residential areas of Dayton and Oakwood, where neighbors hadn't a clue of what was happening under their noses.


If nothing else, proponents of a park site here say, Dayton contributed one of the leading lights to the Manhattan Project - Charles Allen Thomas.
Thomas was among a handful of internationally known scientists who were summoned to Washington in early 1943 and secretly briefed by Brig. Gen. Leslie Groves on the nation's crash program to develop an atomic bomb. Thomas was offered a co-directorship of the project, along with J. Robert Oppenheimer, but declined for family and career reasons since the position would have meant moving to Los Alamos.
Thomas agreed, though, to oversee the development of the polonium trigger in Dayton as well as the chemical research taking place at other Manhattan Project sites. In the end, Thomas was one of just 14 scientists among the thousands involved in the Manhattan Project to be awarded the Medal for Merit, the highest civilian honor for wartime service.
A farm boy who grew up in Scott County, Ky., Thomas' early obsession with chemistry was indulged by his mother, who set up a laboratory for him in the family barn. He went on to attend Berea College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he came to the attention of Dayton's engineering guru Charles F. Kettering. Kettering recruited Thomas to help solve the problem of engine knock, and cheap and efficient leaded gasoline was born.
But the true significance of Dayton's contribution to the Manhattan Project goes to the core of the technical problems in creating a reliable atomic bomb, Maroncelli said. First, the project faced the hurdle of producing enough fissionable radioactive material to reach the critical mass needed for a nuclear chain reaction.
The Hanford site worked on refining plutonium for a bomb, while the Oak Ridge site concentrated on producing enriched uranium. The bomb would work only when a critical mass of uranium or plutonium was crushed together - and only if a few free neutrons were present to kick-start the chain reaction within the few microseconds of highest compression.
Early in their investigations, Los Alamos researchers realized that rapidly mixing polonium with beryllium would release a burst of neutrons that could initiate a chain reaction before the critical mass blew itself apart. But there had never been enough polonium produced to even see it. Dayton scientists worked out the methods for separating sufficient polonium from irradiated bismuth slugs, purifying it, and forming it into the bomb triggers.
Originally, the atomic bombs that were to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both "Gun Type" designs, where two subcritical masses would be compacted together to form the critical mass for an explosive nuclear chain reaction.
But in August 1944, scientists discovered that the plutonium to be produced at Hanford would be five times more unstable than they had previously thought and that the risk of "pre-detonation" made the plutonium Gun Type unfeasible. A safer "Implosion Type" bomb was quickly put on the drawing board. In case either design failed, both bomb types were to be built - the Gun Type code-named Little Boy and the Implosion Type code-named Fat Man.
That put the pressure on Dayton, where scientists now needed to design a new type of polonium trigger for Fat Man.
For the less sophisticated Little Boy, Dayton Project scientists had built half-inch-long cylindrical "squabs" made of beryllium and a few milligrams of polonium separated by gold foil. Four Dayton squabs would trigger Little Boy when they were crushed by the uranium in the Gun Type bomb as it fell toward Hiroshima.
For the plutonium Fat Man bombs, scientists now needed to devise ¾-inch-diameter spheres of beryllium and polonium, called "urchins," one of which was tucked into the center of each of the bombs detonated at Alamogordo and Nagasaki.
The Dayton trigger was a key technical hurdle in not only the bombs of World War II, but also in hundreds of atomic bombs produced after the war. The Trinity device was tested at Alamogordo to prove the feasibility of the implosion method. Dayton's urchin passed this test perfectly.

Atomic Heritage Foundation/Dayton Daily News: Preservation at Dayton, OH

Jim DeBrosse at Dayton Daily News also points out that "As for Thomas, his career at the Monsanto Chemical Company continued to rise after the war. He served as president of Monsanto from 1951 to 1960 and as chairman of the board from 1960 to 1965 before retiring from the company in 1970. He died in 1982."

Isn't it ironic that while we today (rightfully so) criticize nations that are being secretive about their nuclear programs, we still have no real clue about what happened in our own back yards in the 1940s. The early pioneers who invented these weapons of mass destruction were part and parcel of the economic growth model that we are now having to deal with. But the ordinary workers and everyone else are left wondering - was it really worth the effort?

Wikipedia has this to add about Charles Allen Thomas:

He was first employed as a General Motors research chemist from 1923 to 1936, helping to create the tetra-ethyl lead compound long used in motor fuels, and at Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio, from 1926 to 1936. He also served as vice-president of Dayton Synthetic Chemicals, Inc. from 1930-34, and at Carbosolve Corporation from 1931 to 1936. After Monsanto Company acquired Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories in 1936 (making it into Monsanto's Central Research Department), he spent the rest of his career at Monsanto until his retirement in 1970, during which time he served as President (1951–60) and Chairman of the Board (1960–65).

In other words, if you were always wondering who put toxic lead in gasoline fuel, now you know. The same guy, from the same company, that is now trying to sell its patented genetically modified Roundup Ready soy and corn to the world.

But I digress.

What I really wanted was to point out that if we stay on the path of using nuclear energy, we can expect a lot more toxic cleanup, like the one ongoing at Hanford, some 70 years later. And, to quote the Traveller's Guide to Nuclear Weapons:

AFTER SPENDING MORE THAN $5.8 TRILLION, the American public is still in the dark. During the last half of the 20th Century, the United States government organized and financed a secret industry that created tens of thousands of nuclear weapons - giving us for the first time in history the capability to destroy all mankind. This period marked a paradigm shift in the way human beings viewed themselves in their world. The unique manufacturing facilities that made these weapons after World War II have continued to operate under a cloak of secrecy until the present day.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

To Create “Uchiwamora”

 I think this is a really nice idea (sometimes you just go with the flow):

To create “uchiwamora,” Japanese calligraphy brushes were hung from a tree in Ishinomaki and as the wind blew, it created rhythmical brush strokes on the paper uchiwa.

石巻にある木の枝にぶら下げた筆が風の力で動くことにより描かれたデザインの「Tota Hasegawa×aromamora」がこちら。
There is an additional series of fans “KIDS x aromamora,” designed by the children staying in the evacuation shelters in Ishinomaki. All these designs are one of a kind. This series of uchiwa are scented by “aromamora &01Tohoku,” a fresh, comforting scent inspired by the forest in Tohoku. W+K Tokyo’s Kentaro Shihaku, worked as Creative Director on this project.

From here

Japan: Another Nuclear Free Vision

Good to see that there are people working hard within the echelons of Japan's government that can produce reports like this:

An Environment Ministry draft report states that Japan can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent without relying on nuclear power. This news is most welcome after the dangers of nuclear power were starkly exposed by the Fukushima nuclear fiasco.

The report suggests that even with all reactors offline, cuts could reach 33 percent, depending on efforts to conserve energy and to adopt renewable energy sources. Even more conservative estimates from a similar trade and industry ministry report found that reductions of 16 percent are possible with all reactors offline.

Both reports suggest that Japan will be able to keep its pledge of reducing gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, highlighting a long-standing truth that reductions in the most harmful heat-trapping gas emissions can be achieved without nuclear power despite claims to the contrary by advocates of nuclear energy. The government should translate this truth into a policy of nonnuclear energy production.

Also, good to see that there are people in media who pay attention to these reports... I'd like to know more about how this came to the attention of said media. We truly live in interesting times.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Media Power, And Media Lies About Power

As Japan heads into unknown territory, energy-wise speaking, expect mass media to sound all kinds of alarms as they are funded by the electricity companies and TEPCO in particular.

David McNeill noted that "Japan's power-supply industry, collectively, is Japan's biggest advertiser, spending ¥88 billion (more than $1 billion) a year, according to the Nikkei Advertising Research Institute. Tepco's ¥24.4 billion alone is roughly half what a global firm as large as Toyota spends in a year."

The Japan Times:  Fukushima lays bare Japanese media's ties to top

Be that as it may, I'm always worried about the sanity of regular bloggers, and others who may get a little too upset and stressed-out about what they read with their morning coffee. Isn't it funny how "media" has the "power" to make us upset...? But of course what I'm really talking about is the fact that Japan now is running without a single nuclear reactor in service, after the last one was shut down beginning of May for regular checkups. So far, so good. If we can get through this summer without them, they will obviously never need to be turned on again. And so goes the debate: They need to be gradually put on line again, or else.

Leika Kihara writes for Reuters: "Policymakers are worried about the damage to the budding economic recovery as the power shortages are expected to be more severe and widespread than last summer, when many areas in Japan were still running nuclear reactors. Some also warn of the long-term fallout as the rising cost of electricity, coupled with a strong yen, hits production and could prompt companies to shift operations overseas."

Reuters:  Nuclear-free Japan braces for summer power shortages

The quote that irritates me is this: "The shutdown of Japan’s last working nuclear power plant on Sunday morning and the government’s failure to convince a wary public about restoring production at dozens of reactors leaves the world’s third largest economy facing another summer of severe power shortages." But where does Leika Kihara get the idea that there will be "severe" shortages? That is not backed up in the article. Just because it is repeated several times does not make it more true.

Also, other countries in Asia like Taiwan are also debating rising electricity costs, with or without NPPs. Blogger The View from Taiwan notes that the rise in cost there will be phased in in three stages. Rising international fuel prices are going to cause a lot of damage, not just in Japan. Reuters, you can do better.

However, Associated Press does even worse, in a rambling piece that seems to be about greenhouse gas emissions, but really is about nuclear power, or about energy supply in general. But Malcolm Foster should spend a little more time to Google Your Facts (or ask someone to do the checking if you are too lazy). What about these quotes?

Quote #1: "Japan is now free of atomic power for the first time since 1966."

Check: The first real commercial reactor did not go online until 1970, during the Osaka EXPO. Anything before that, the Tokai reactor in Ibaraki, was just online on a trial-and-error basis, in spite of the claims by proponents of nuclear power (the design for Tokai was based on a now obsolete UK model called Magnox that was never used again in Japan, but for some reason caught on in North Korea). The early reactors at Tokai and the Tsuruga plants in Fukui were also off-line most of the time in their early days due to "reliability problems" and "long maintenance outages," with the "average capacity factor averaging 46% over 1975-77" according to WNA. Early on, they had so many problems that one has to wonder why they didn't just decide that this was going to be impossible.

Quote #2: "With the loss of nuclear energy, the Ministry of Environment projects that Japan will produce about 15% more greenhouse gas emissions this fiscal year than it did in 1990, the baseline year for measuring progress in reducing emissions."

Check: The Ministry of Environment actually thinks Japan can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent without relying on nuclear power according to a draft report that The Japan Times notes in a recent editorial, Cutting CO₂ without reactors.

Quote #3: "Renewable energy accounts for about 9% of Japan’s power generation—similar to the U.S. Most of that energy is hydroelectric power from dams; and some experts say solar and wind power are too intermittent to be a reliable source of base-load energy."

Check: Japan could do a lot better in this field, especially considering that China is able to get 65 GW from smaller hydro electric plants (Japan only gets 3.5 GW). This includes local energy production for local use,  and a relatively low environmental impact compared to large hydro. With or without nuclear power plants, Japan could - and should - also invest in solar, considering its climate, with a lot of sunny days. It has nothing to do with being "intermittent" as in irregular, in a country that has a lot of sunny days, which is exactly what the advocates of nuclear power is using as an argument for switching the NPPs back on. Surreal, if one considers how much money has been invested in nuclear power, rather than in securing alternatives.

AP: Japan's greenhouse gas emissions projected to rise 15%

Don't even get me started on the editorial over at Yomiuri Shinbun: Summer power shortage feared if situation remains unchanged

So,  what we need in the summer of '12 in Japan is not more nuclear power, but more common sense. And, as one commenter suggested, we did all right until the 1970s, managing fine with the heat. If it gets really bad, turn on a fan rather than the AC, and use wet towels, sip some tea, and listen to the cicadas while you take a nap. The old-fashioned 昼寝 hirune (siesta) is a time-tested and fool-proof way to deal with stress, that you may get from reading the news these days.

(Image of a simple design for a lovely hand-held uchiwa paper fan from wktokyo)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Time To Reconsider Our Lifestyles

This interview is very interesting, a very "Kurashi" topic, as this 80 year old nuclear plant engineer Kazushige Hamazaki talks to Mainichi Shimbun about his initial enthusiasm about nuclear power back in 1970:

An elderly engineer who was involved in the activation of Japan's first commercial light water reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in 1970 is calling May 5, 2012 "an important day to consider Japanese lifestyles."

"I never felt tired as I was filled with the feeling that I was going to support Japan's economic development," recalled Hamazaki, former vice president of the Japan Atomic Power Co. At 4 a.m. that day, the No. 1 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant completed its 100-hour electricity-generation trial. While the facility's central control room was filled with "banzai" celebration chants, Hamazaki, then head of the power generation division, felt a sense of fulfillment as he held a key-shaped commemorative gift offered by plant supplier General Electric (GE). When Hamazaki went outside, he saw Tsuruga Bay shining in the rising sun. Several hours later, the electricity generated at the plant was transmitted to the venue of the Osaka Expo, which kicked off the same day. "The light of atomic power has arrived," an announcement echoed throughout the venue.

Mainichi: Nuclear plant engineer says halt of Tomari reactor marks time to review lifestyles

Hamazaki studied in the United Kingdom and later passed the first national exam for licensed engineers of nuclear reactors in 1959. He transferred to Japan Atomic Power Co. in 1963, where he worked for the activation of the Tsuruga nuclear power plant.
"Even though the No. 1 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant was delivered (by GE) in the name of 'proven technology,' the reactor was hit by one problem after another, starting immediately after its activation," said Hamazaki. He said that the facility's mechanism to treat and store radioactive waste was insufficient and that the pipe welding was bad. Every time a malfunction took place, Hamazaki struggled to overcome it.
"It took 10 years to make the nuclear plant full-fledged. Japan's nuclear plants rose to a level where people placed faith in them after many trials and errors," he said.
Some 30 years later, however, Hamazaki was devastated to see footage of the reactor buildings at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant explode in March 2011 following a massive earthquake and tsunami.
"I felt as if I was thrown into an abyss," recalls Hamazaki. The multifaceted protections that he had believed would provide "absolute" safety were easily destroyed by the massive tsunami.
Although Hamazaki believes that "reactivation of nuclear plants is indispensable unless we have an alternative power supply," he continued, "This (May 5) will inevitably be the day when all Japanese people reconsider how Japan's energy policy should be, including reviewing our lifestyles."

Back in Sweden, we were a little bit slow, indeed a couple of years behind Japan entering the nuclear game, with the Ringhals reactors (Westinghouse, 1974) and Forsmark (Asea Atom, 1980).

But I don't think Swedish people felt that Japan was "ahead" of us in the sense of development, back in the 1970s.

When did we make the leap to assume that abundant electricity, not matter the problems, and without any concern about how to deal with the radioactive waste, was OK? I am having a huge problem trying to understand what happened back then.

The two Barsebäck reactors near Malmö (where I was born) have now been closed down. The first Barsebäck nuclear reactor that was up and running in 1975 was extremely controversial, since it was so very close to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, a country that has no nuclear reactors. Looking at it from a Fukushima perspective, Barsebäck is 20 kilometers from Copenhagen, and would be a huge source of grief if a Fukushima-like accident had happened there.

My mother tells me that as a child I was with her protesting against these nuclear reactors, before they were up and running. And I do remember collecting signatures against the Barsebäck reactors, when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I had the sheets of paper with me, visiting the house of a friend. His family had adult visitors that got very upset when I approached them and asked them to sign the anti nuclear plant appeal. They said, "How terrible, the anti nuclear people are even using children to push their point!" And I felt, "Hey I may be young, but do not assume that I do not know what I am talking about!" That emotion has stayed with me until now.

Ah, Japan was so ahead of its time back in 1970. Isn't it amazing what we have gone through, as human beings, on Planet Earth, since then.

I mentioned the Osaka Expo here: Expo Osaka And Expo Shanghai: 40 Years Later, Have We Learnt Anything?

The theme of Expo 2010 in Shanghai is Better City, Better Life, representing "the common wish of the whole humankind for a better living in future urban environments." Really? I'm sure most of mankind, especially everyone living in rural towns and farm villages, in remote places in mountains or near rivers, lakes and on islands in the ocean, have a very different opinion, but OK. We all hope the city folks will do allright.

It is 40 years since the Osaka Expo in 1970. My aunt's husband is an architect and city planner. As a young lad he and bunch of others flew over to Japan, rented a car, drove on the left side of the road and went to the Osaka Expo. It was a huge inspiration and he has some amazing slides and a lot of stories, that I enjoyed as a child.

Several bloggers have noted the anniversary, including Pink Tentacle:

The 1970 World’s Fair — a.k.a. Expo ‘70 — opened in Osaka 40 years ago this week. A total of 77 countries attended the event and the number of visitors surpassed 64 million people, making it one of the largest and best attended expositions in history. This was the first World’s Fair to be held in Japan, a nation that had experienced an extremely rapid period of development in the 1960s. The theme of the Expo was “Progress and Harmony for Mankind,” and the aim was to showcase the possibilities of modern technology to create a foundation for a high quality of life and peace throughout the world.

Stellavista notes that Osaka marked the "end of the future" as "the planners of Expo 70 had realised that the moon was just a boring, far away rock, which ceased to capture our imagination one year after it was conquered."

The end of the future, and a time to reconsider our "kurashi," wow I think we can do better.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Japan Will Have No Nuclear Reactors Up And Running On Children's Day, May 6, 2012

On Children's day, this weekend, in early May, all Japanese nuclear reactors will be shut down. Zero power to the world's third largest economy, from such power plants. Zero.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Buddhist Monks Sit-in, Calling Christians to Join Them; Ultra-Right Joined by Ultra-Left in Hunger Strike Against Nuclear Power Plants

Buddhist monks in Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku are staging the sit-ins to protest against the prospect of restarting Ikata Nuclear Power Plant, which sits just outside the largest active fault in Japan (Median Tectonic Line) and part of the plant is built on the landfill. The monks are calling out to Christian churches to join them in the protest.

From Ehime Shinbun (4/29/2012):

 宗教関係者が「伊方反対」の座り込み 松山

Religious leaders staged sit-in against the restart of Itaka Nuke Plant in Matsuyama


Religious leaders in the prefecture [Ehime] against the restart of Ikata Nuclear Power Plant operated by Shikoku Electric (in Ikata-cho) started the sit-in in a town square in Matsuyama City on April 28. About 25 people including Buddhist monks and the followers across the different sects gathered there, and chanted the Buddhist scriptures for an hour with the banners that said "Stop nuclear power plants".


The sit-in was carried out by "Buddhists for protecting children in Fukushima and stopping nuclear power plants" that was formed in September 2011 by 7 people including the chief priests of Buddhist temples in the city. The group is calling to more than 300 Buddhist temples and Christian churches in the prefecture to join them in the effort to oppose nuclear plants.


One of the members of the group, chief priest of Kannon Temple, said "Restart of the nuclear plant is a matter of life, and I would like more people to know that."


Sit-ins will continue until May 4, from 5PM for one hour.

From here