Thursday, November 29, 2012

How To Store Nuclear Waste, A Very Long Time

We all use electricity, and we all assume that there is a plan, to keep the power on, all the time. What we all ignore is how the nuclear power plants are run, and especially how the waste from such facilities will be stored. In fact, there is no plan at all. Some 70% of the radioactive waste is stored at each nuclear plant, here in Japan. Soon, such storage facilities, inside nuclear power plants, will be full.

Wiki: Radioactive waste

The plan, here in Japan, was to ship the radioactive waste to Rokkasho in Aomori, but that "reprocessing plant" has had all kinds of problems.

While politicians in Japan who are trying to get elected in December may worry about energy production in the short term, I think they ought to be honest enough to also suggest how Japan is going to deal with the long term disposal of nuclear waste from 54 nuclear plants.

Japan Today: Fukushima governor visits proposed radioactive waste dump site

Fukushima Gov Yuhei Sato on Wednesday visited a site in Futaba that currently stands as a potential candidate for the storage of radioactive waste and debris from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis.
Sato told reporters that there were some remaining points of concern that could only be verified by an on-site inspection, Fuji TV reported. Sato said he is still discussing with Environment Minister Hiroyuki Nagahama to confirm whether or not the site meets the government’s guidelines for a storage facility.
Although Futaba Town Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa did not attend the inspection, a spokesperson said representatives from seven other towns and villages in the area have agreed to the proposed facility.
Idogawa has opposed the plan from the beginning, saying that the land was sacred to the residents and their ancestors, and that if a storage facility is built in the area, residents will never be able to return to their land.
He also said that the central government continues to disregard the views of local municipalities, making it impossible for there to be mutual trust.
The plan calls for the government to buy up or lease land that has been abandoned in the Futaba area where radiation doses are likely to exceed 100 millisieverts per year.
The facilities, which would have concrete walls, will be used to store containers of contaminated soil and radioactive waste from the no-go zone and other areas in and around Fukushima Prefecture.
The waste will initially be stored for three years in short-term repositories while the government constructs bigger facilities for storage over a 30-year period.
Japan Today

NHK: TEPCO chief questioned over nuclear plant problems

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority has questioned the president of Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, about its nuclear safety policy.

Naomi Hirose met the chief of the authority's secretariat, Katsuhiko Ikeda, on Thursday.

Ikeda is said to have demanded in the 30-minute closed meeting that TEPCO's management play an active role to ensure safety at its nuclear power stations.

Ikeda reportedly cited a recent series of problems and legal violations reported at the firm's nuclear plants.

Among them is damage to spent fuel assemblies found at TEPCO'S Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Ikeda reportedly asked Hirose about TEPCO's in-house safety system and how management is engaged.

After the meeting, Ikeda said the key to organizational reform lies in how management aggressively tackles the challenge and ensures that rank-and-file workers share its intentions.

Hirose apologized for the firm's problems and said reforming the nuclear power sector is TEPCO's top priority.

He said the firm will take specific steps to make its top officials' ideas clear to all employees.

Nov. 29, 2012

Dog image from 47 News

Japlish (Again)

Using free internet translation services may be alright for private matters, but if you are promoting your business, and planning to make a sign, think twice.

It just may be the case, that your real intention can be misunderstood...

Monday, November 26, 2012

November Links

I have had a busy month with some travels around Japan, and managed to catch Sumo in Fukuoka (Hakuho lost, then went on to win on Sunday against fellow yokozuna from Mongolia Harumafuji).

Here are some links: 

Asia Times: China 'pivot' trips over McMahon Line
By Peter Lee

China is looking for a "Western" pivot to counter the United States' diplomatic and military inroads with its East Asian neighbors such as Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Myanmar.

For China's strategists, as an interesting analysis in the Indian Express tells us, the "Western" pivot means nurturing the PRC's continental Asian relationships with the interior stans and, across the Himalayas, India...

Link: Photos of the new Communist Chinese passports

NHK World: India responds to new Chinese passports

India has retaliated against China over a map and picture depicted in new Chinese passports. Indian media have reported that the map shows a disputed area near the Himalayan Mountains as part of Chinese territory. India also claims sovereignty over the region. Chinese passports revised in May of this year display the map along with pictures of sight seeing spots. In response, the Indian government has begun to issue visas to Chinese citizens at the Indian embassy in Beijing with a map showing the disputed area as part of India.

China and India fought a war in 1962 over sovereignty of the Himalayan region. The 2 sides have continued negotiations over border demarcations, but have not come to an agreement. The new Chinese passports have also drawn protests from the governments of the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan because they show disputed areas of the South China Sea as belonging to China...

Foreign Policy: Apocalypse Mao

The outline of China's looming environmental challenges may be familiar, but the details are so staggering that they bear recounting: The dark side of being the world's factory for three decades is a landscape of rivers, fields, and smoggy cities now so degraded that the World Bank estimates pollution damages annually siphon off 5.8 percent of China's GDP. The poor are disproportionately affected, and 242 million rural residents -- roughly the entire population of Indonesia -- lack access to clean drinking water. Cancer is the country's leading cause of mortality, implicated in nearly one in four deaths.

China's major cities remain cloaked in smog. And though environmental officials have successfully shuttered many polluting factories, the fast-multiplying number of vehicles in the world's top auto market poses another air-quality challenge. Likewise, the environmental ministry knows that dangerous levels of heavy-metal pollution contaminates a tenth of China's farmland (prolonged exposure causes organ and nerve-damage, among other problems), but cleaning up is another matter.
If only China had the luxury of just focusing on existing problems. But water scarcity -- China is home to a fifth of the world's population, but just 7 percent of available freshwater resources -- is likely to become more dire, as another 350 million people transition from rural areas to urban lifestyles, and bustling metropolises rise in the country's arid west...

The Japan Times: For energy security, Japan urged to diversify sources

Japan needs not only to maintain a diverse energy mix — including nuclear power — but also diversify the ways of securing imported fuel in the face of the changing global supply-demand structure, a former executive director of the International Energy Agency said at a recent seminar in Tokyo.

News photo
Robert Dujarric (left) from Temple University's Japan Campus, discusses Japan's energy diplomacy during an Oct. 30 seminar in Tokyo as his co-panelist Nobuo Tanaka from the Institute of Energy Economics listens. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTOS
The Democratic Party of Japan-led government's plan to seek a phaseout in nuclear power lacks the perspectives of energy security for the country and fails to address international concerns such as the possible impact of a Mideast turmoil on oil supply, or the effects of rapidly growing energy consumption in countries like China and India, said Nobuo Tanaka, currently an associate at the government-affiliated Institute of Energy Economics...

by Dennis Posadas

In Japan, a cap and trade scheme was dropped in 2010 after strong pressure from industry. In its place, the government is planning a carbon tax that will kick in starting April 2016. Already, opposition to this has gathered as well from business groups. A Reuters report quotes a researcher at the government backed think tank Institute of Energy Economics of Japan as saying that the carbon tax will cost Japan about 80 billion Yen annually starting 2016...

Japan has its own J-VER scheme launched by the Ministry of the Environment as a domestic voluntary carbon offset system...

If the Doha COP18 conference cannot muster enough support for a new or extended Kyoto treaty, countries can still move mitigation and adaptation by supporting tax credits for voluntary carbon emission offset purchases. The money that flows into the voluntary carbon markets can augment existing carbon tax, cap and trade and actual mitigation efforts in many parts of the world.

While it is important for all countries to sign a worldwide binding climate treaty, the experience from the past high profile Conference of Parties from Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban has not been promising. As for carbon tax and cap and trade, oppositors are trying to gather steam against both measures. Thus it wouldn’t hurt to pass tax credits for voluntary purchase of emissions credits as a “break the glass plan” so that countries around the world can have something tangible to support the pronouncement they make for climate change avoidance...

And finally, Why I'm Voting Green

By Chris Hedges

Voting for the “lesser evil”—or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.

All the major correctives to American democracy have come through movements and third parties that have operated outside the mainstream. Few achieved formal positions of power. These movements built enough momentum and popular support, always in the face of fierce opposition, to force the power elite to respond to their concerns. Such developments, along with the courage to defy the political charade in the voting booth, offer the only hope of saving us from Wall Street predators, the assault on the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, the rise of the security and surveillance state and the dramatic erosion of our civil liberties. 

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any,” Alice Walker writes.

It was the Liberty Party that first fought slavery. It was the Prohibition and Socialist parties, along with the Suffragists, that began the fight for the vote for women and made possible the 19th Amendment. It was the Socialist Party, along with radical labor unions, that first battled against child labor and made possible the 40-hour workweek. It was the organizing of the Populist Party that gave us the Immigration Act of 1924 along with a “progressive” tax system. And it was the Socialists who battled for unemployment benefits, leading the way to the Social Security Act of 1935. No one in the ruling elite, including Franklin Roosevelt, would have passed this legislation without pressure from the outside...

Bonus image from Kyodo: Noda, Obama meet

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (L front) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R front) chat via interpreters ahead of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 20, 2012. (Pool photo by Kyodo News)(Kyodo)...

Which reminded me of this old image... 

At the first US/Soviet summit of the Reagan / Gorbachev era, in Geneva in November, 1985 (and no, I can’t actually BELIEVE its 24 years) I was one of the stills guys present. We were few enough that you could put us on the head of large pin. Kennerly, Dirck, Diana Walker, Ficara, the usual run of magazine folks, and the wires. We were less than 15 from the US side, I believe. A large handful. On the Russian (oops, Soviet) side, there were a bunch of former rugby players with wide lapelled suits and Nikon’s with potato masher flash units...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Zlatan från Malmö

As most of my long-suffering Kurashi readers know, I'm from Malmö, a harbour city in the south of Sweden, that used to be a part of Denmark way back some 400 years ago before we all decided enough is enough, let us all get along... Well, we dealt with that. In Malmö, we are closer to Copenhagen than to Stockholm in some ways. There may be a lesson here for prefectures in Japan that are further west, near Korea and China...

Funny how a single Swedish football player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who went to the same elementary school, Rosengårdsskolan as my younger brother Johan and I, now define Sweden. Here is what happened in the last couple of days. Zlatan, who has scored for and won all kinds of honours in Europe for all kinds of great clubs, including Paris, Inter, Milan, you name it... He started out in a small local Rosengård team called Assyriska, where not a single player had Swedish nationality, and was later playing for MFF, the main club in Malmö.

Fast forward, and this incredibly talented geezer has now single-handedly brought down England in the friendly that ended 4-2. Believe it or not, Zlatan scored all 4 goals. He is that good.

Cue applauds and even here in Japan, as I had supper tonight at Kyoto Dining Ichiba Coji, at the 9th floor of the Kyoto station building, when I was asked where I was from, and I said Sweden, the young guy with a cute girl on a date did not miss a beat. "Ibrahimovic!" was the immediate response. ズラタン・イブラヒモビッチ

Some 10 or 20 years ago, I may have expected "ABBA" or "Volvo" or "Björn Borg" but in November, 2012, a certain MFF center from Malmö is now known around the world, with instant recognition here, in Kyoto, Japan.

Top photo of Zlatan in Sweden national team gear from Japanese blogger Jätte bra!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Organic Festa In Kagoshima

This organic food market event in Kagoshima City today Sunday Nov. 11 seems to good to pass over! I wish I could join. "Living with nature, playing with Earth" or something like that - is the slogan. The event is not just about food but also promoting renewable energy, using 100% solar for the concert and other activities on the stage. Enjoy!

Organic Festa

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hibiya Park Food Event

There has been some confusion this week, as anti-nuclear protesters wanted to stage a huge rally in central Tokyo this weekend, in Hibiya Park. They were denied that particular venue, as a large food fair had already booked the place.

Thus, if you venture to the City on Saturday or Sunday, you can encounter all kinds of foods from around Japan.

Each prefecture seems to have its own promotion booth.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Tanegashima Bananas

Did you know that Japan has really delicious bananas? In the south, as this country reaches down into tropical regions, they grow terrific tasting bananas, sweet and with a slight sour note that adds to the experience. Here is to hoping we can all get more such tropical fruits in the rest of the country.

Slow life... People living down south are trying to tell us something... We can enjoy the fruits of their labour. HAPPY SLOW LIFE has more.

Tanagashima bananas are short and tasty, a real treat. 

Meanwhile, Europe and South America have just concluded a long World Trade Organization battle on bananas... The Telegraph has more.

Banana war ends after 20 years

One of the longest international trade battles - the banana dispute dating back more than two decades - is over

The EU import tariffs had favoured imports from former European colonies, with no duty imposed on bananas from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. However, the EU charged duties on bananas from other countries. The banana issue is one of the longest running disputes in the post-World War Two multilateral trading system.

No, yes, oh well. U.S. banana companies are going to rejoice. The EU tried to find a way to help its old colonies. Not popular, in these days and times. If you live in Japan, do ask for bananas from the south, like Tanegashima...

Top photo from Cotan

Tanegashima banana photos from Minshuku Selvi

All we need to do is find alternative ways of procuring the food we eat on a daily basis, supporting farmers we know and trust. What a difference it would make. Seriously. These short and tasty bananas are so much better-tasting.

Or you could go with the "trend" of Dole bananas, supported by Time Magazine,  Japan Goes Bananas for a New Diet, complete with a photo of a girl that smiles a huge smile all teeth and, yes. no, she really gives Time or Reuters the photo they needed for that story...

Sigh... Whenever you hear the word "trend" you know that someone is paying a lot of money to make that a fact.

That Time/Reuters photographer clearly had no integrity or he would not have let such a bad photo pass.

According to Ministry of Finance, Japan's banana imports were 970,000 tons in 2007, mostly from Taiwan and the Philippines. "It takes from 10 to 15 months to harvest bananas, so it is not at all easy to meet a sudden increase in demand," says Dole's Ohtaki. Dole Japan is trying to make up the shortfall by negotiating distribution deals with Dole corporations in other countries. Supplying the spike in demand will be lucrative, because banana prices in Japan have risen about 20% as a result of supply shortages that have coincided with the diet fad.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

George Harrison: Long, Long, Long

There is a quaint pub in an old kura here in Hanno. Ginga 銀河 can mean Milky Way or galaxy, nice name for a place that I like here in town... Silver River...

Incidentally, in the Ginga loo, she has a poster that I was always wondering about, of Bob Dylan and just tonight I found out that it is the poster for a film called Renaldo and Clara.

I like how I found that - I was listening to George Harrison's masterful tune Long Long Long (from the 1968 White Album) and someone wrote that the chords are the same as Bob Dylan's Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, from that film.


It's been a long, long, long time
How could I ever have lost you
When I loved you?
It took a long, long, long time
Now I'm so happy I found you
How I love you
So many tears I was searching
So many tears I was wasting, oh oh
Now I can see you be you
How can I ever misplace you?
How I want you
Oh, I love you
You know that I need you
Oh, I love you

George Harrison-The Beatles

In fact, one of George's very best. A very sad, truly amazing love song, to god. Thanks George. I wish we had artists like you and John and Paul and Ringo to inspire us. It's been a long, long time since popular music carried that depth of feeling to millions of listeners. But I'm a believer, music always prevails!

Here is the Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

GMOs: To Label Or Not To Label?

Some 50-60 countries have rules for mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods, after 15 years of debate. Most of such GMOs are grown in the US and the rest of the Americas.

Japan, Korea and the European Union are among the many countries that require labelling of GMOs.

California had a choice with Proposition 37, and over 4 million voters said "yes" but a few more voted "no." Monsanto, the main biotech corporation that develops GMOs (and patents them) together with BASF and Bayer, as well as Pepsi, Coca Cola and Nestle, spent some USD 50 million in a campaign to oppose GMO labels in California.

Seems consumers in San Francisco and Los Angeles and along the coast voted for. Sigh.

Prop 37 results

Food Democracy Now

Meanwhile, I attended a CCAsia meeting here in Tokyo to discuss all kinds of food standards, as part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. It was decided that a draft standard for tofu and soymilk products would indeed require labelling in case the soy was GMO. I made the point that it is perfectly reasonable that a food that is important to consumers in this region is properly labelled.

Codex standards make sense for food that is exported and imported. Increasingly, I am in favour of locally produced food. The more I learn about global rules, the less I want to be a part of it. Yet we need rules to avoid outright violations. And consumers do expect imported foods to be safe, right?

Here in Japan, J Oil Mills and Nishin Oil are in the spotlight as the worst offenders when it comes to GMOs. Food oils (mostly imported) do not need to be labelled according to the Japanese rules.

These food oil companies refuse to divulge where their soy ingredients are sourced... The term "Salada oil" in particular seems to include all kinds of ingredients that the companies do not want to tell consumers about - like corn, soy, rape seed, cotton, whatever... Avoid.

Images from Art Toy.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Akasaka State Guest House In Tokyo

I may be going to this on Sunday...

Rarely open to the public, I always wondered what it was like. A neo-baroque building and gardens from 1909 in the middle of Tokyo.

The Main Entrance is overlooked by a balcony; above runs a patina-green roof adorned on either side by representations of Japanese helmet and armor. In the center right below the roof is an insignia bearing the Imperial chrysanthemum design.

Marble from Italy, France and Norway (!) according to the official website.

Halls are also inspired by themes from Noh theatre, such as the Hagoromo-mo-Ma.

The name Hagoromo-mo-Ma comes from the imposing 300 squre meters painting on the ceiling, which depicts scenes from the Noh play "Hagoromo" (Robe of Heaven). The three chandeliers in this room are the most gorgeous ones in the Palace. Each chandelier is composed by 7,000 pieces, three meters in height and weighting 800 kilograms. The walls are decorated with stucco relief of musical instruments and scores. On the mezzanine floor is an orchestra gallery which reminds us of the days when it was originally designed as a ballroom.
Today this room is mainly used for welcoming ceremonies in case of unfavorable weather, as well as receptions and conferences. When an official banquet is held at the Kacho-no-Ma, beverages are served to the guests in this room before and after the dinner.

Also known as the Akasaka Palace.

Asahi-no-ma means the "Room of the Rising Sun" no less. One cannot but help to think of a certain tune from the 1960s...