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.


Pandabonium said...

End of the future. As we imagined it in any case. As James Howard Kunstler opines "in the future, science fiction stories will take place in the past."

Martin J Frid said...

Thanks, good quote.