Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to Fire in a Gas Kiln...

Pretty educational video this, how to do it properly in your own handmade kiln, with Stedmark #100 burners. Love his accent. "Trying not to panic...."

And here you see his results:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Japan's Green Party

Writer Winifred Bird has done us all a favour and interviewed the good people over at Japan's Green Party, which was formed in 2012. Read it over at

Despite this heightened awareness of issues core to the Greens’ platform, the party has yet to see a matching leap in support for it, Ishizaki says. “In the longer term, though, our party plays an important role by simply existing. We’ve got members in place here and there around the country as members of municipal assemblies, representing citizen interests. Each of them is fighting single-handedly to protect values like human rights, pacifism, and the environment. For people like these, the Greens can be a vessel for their hope that one day someone representing their views will join the National Diet. All we can do is hold on to our vision and goals, strengthen our network, and do the steady work to expand our organization.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

UK Votes Out Of The EU

I'm really sorry and worried that the UK has voted to leave the EU. Most of voters in cities voted for the remain, but countryside voters were against. It shows a sense of bias that the EU has only benefited rich people in large cities.

Indeed, I can agree that farmers are usually left out of the Brussels quagmire debates. And so many others, like here in Japan, are old people living in the rural towns that do not feel much benefit from Trade Liberalization and large shopping centers that offer all kinds of imported goods at low prices, mostly from China. But why does this translate to the right-wing vote?

I'm from the southernmost province of Sweden. We voted for joining the EU some 20 years ago. Sweden did join, but later opted out of the Euro. Since then, the EU has grown to include 28 countries. It may have been more manageable and more democratic back then. But why did the UK right-wing Cameron government embark on this stupid vote in the first place? Incredibly foolish. Scotland votes for remain, all of London is for, Liverpool and Manchester, Hove & Brighton is for remain.

Ages ago, I remember there was a really silly movement to get Skåne to leave Sweden. Seriously, they had their main guy out on the main square, trying to whip out votes. That was in the 1970s, long before the rise of Neo-Nazism and anti-immigration politicians. We laughed at them. Now they are (almost) mainstream, and in the UK of all places. You want to get out of the major European peace-building initiative in the past 70 years?

MOX Fuel at Ikata in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku

I was hoping this would not happen. Protesters are also outside the plant. They read out a statement protesting the insertion of nuclear fuel into the No.3 unit. The statement said the system for transmitting electricity to the plant cannot withstand a powerful earthquake and the plant's safety cannot be guaranteed. A stable power supply is needed to maintain the cooling of the reactor. One of the protesters said that in view of the powerful temblors that struck Kumamoto, the operator should not rush the process of inserting fuel into the reactor.

NHK World: Fuel loading begins at Ikata No.3 nuclear reactor

Workers have begun loading nuclear fuel into a reactor at the Ikata power plant in western Japan. The operator plans to restart the reactor in late July.

They started removing units of fuel rods from a pool on Friday, and placed them into the No.3 reactor one at a time. Sixteen of the 157 units of fuel rods are the type of fuel called MOX, which is a mixture of plutonium extracted from spent fuel and uranium.

The operator, Shikoku Electric Power Company, plans to complete the procedure next Monday.

The utility hopes to put the reactor back online in late July, after conducting drills based on the scenario of a serious nuclear accident.

The reactor's operations were suspended in April 2011, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident the previous month.

But Japan's nuclear regulators decided last year that the No.3 reactor met the new government regulations that were introduced after the Fukushima accident.

Ikata will become the 3rd nuclear plant to be restarted under the new regulations, following the Sendai plant in southwestern Japan and the Takahama plant in central Japan.

But the 2 reactors at the Takahama plant are now offline under a court injunction.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fukushima Coverup: Nuclear Reactor Core Meltdown

Now it is rather official. Back in March 2011, as events unfolded, we were not told the truth. We saw the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear reactors live on TV. But we were not told the rest of the story:

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The head of Tokyo Electric Power Co. apologized Tuesday over his predecessor's instruction not to use the term "core meltdown" in describing the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in the early days of the crisis, calling the instruction a "coverup."
"It is extremely regrettable. People are justified in thinking it a coverup," TEPCO President Naomi Hirose said at a press conference in Tokyo.
The remarks came after a report published last Thursday said then President Masataka Shimizu instructed a vice president, who was taking part in a press conference on March 14, 2011, not to use "core meltdown" in describing the state of damaged reactors.
The report suggested that efforts were made to make the nuclear crisis look less severe than it actually was at a time when attention was riveted on the condition of the six-reactor complex following a massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

A much better article covering this story over at the Mainichi:

Editorial: Probe into Fukushima nuke plant's 'meltdown' cover-up lacks credibility

A third-party panel set up by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to investigate a 2011 accident at its tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has released a report that then TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu had ordered that the company never use the phrase, "reactor core meltdown."
It is highly problematic for the head of a company that caused a serious accident, which could threaten the lives and health of people, to issue an order that could be taken as covering up the seriousness of the disaster. The vice president in charge of the nuclear power business and other executives, as well as some employees, deserve criticism that they followed such an instruction.

Considering that the cover-up allegations surfaced more than five years after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster, it is difficult to believe that TEPCO has regained the public's confidence in itself.
The term "Reactor core meltdown" is scientifically a vague phrase. Still, TEPCO's in-house manual on nuclear power generation states that if over 5 percent of the core of a reactor is damaged, it should be recognized as a meltdown. If TEPCO had followed this definition, the company could have deemed three days after the outbreak of the crisis that core meltdowns had occurred in the plant's No. 1 and 3 reactors. However, it was not until two months later that TEPCO officially admitted that meltdowns had occurred at the power station. Furthermore, it was as late as this past February that the existence of the in-house manual came to light.

TEPCO had initially claimed that it was unaware of the existence of the manual but a certain number of employees knew about the manual. The utility had also explained that the firm did not make a clear decision not to admit that meltdowns occurred at the Fukushima plant. However, since the president issued such an order, it is natural to suspect that the firm covered up the meltdowns.
Questions should also be raised over the way the third-party investigative panel conducted the probe. Its investigative report suggests that Shimizu issued the order under pressure from the prime minister's office. "It is assumed that the company understood that it had been asked by the prime minister's office to exercise caution about publicly acknowledging that reactor core meltdowns occurred," the report states. However, the panel had failed to even question the then prime minister or chief Cabinet secretary. The panel later explained that it had neither the authority nor the time to question these top officials.

It is extremely sloppy that the panel suggested that there was political intervention into TEPCO's response to the accident based only on presumptions, as it is an important point. It could give the public the impression that the panel shifted the blame away from TEPCO to the prime minister's office.

Moreover, the report says it cannot be recognized that the company had intentionally concealed the existence of the definition of reactor core meltdowns in the manual for five years, hinting that the panel sided with the power company. As such, it is difficult to trust the panel.

These problems apparently remind the public that there are limits to investigations by third-party panels, such as those conducted into money scandals involving former Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe and House of Representatives member Yuko Obuchi. Even if these bodies are called "third-party" fact-finding panels, it is highly questionable how far they are independent since these are set up by those involved in scandals.

Those involved in wrongdoing should not use third-party panels they set up to justify their practices or evade responsibility.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Post Peak Oil

When I started Kurashi some 10 years ago, the issue of peak oil quickly was brought to my attention by some great people that knew a lot about energy issues. The blog to follow back then was The Oil Drum and there were others. Since then, it is thought that peak oil did indeed happen around 2006-2008, so we are now in an era of uncharted territory, which some of us started to prepare for back then. I focus on consumption issues and what is called "Responsible Consumption" - meaning we should consume resources that are finite (like oil) as little as possible... Thus I have no car, try to buy locally produced food, and care about my electricity bill. I also make some of my own veggies, although that is just a small step in the right direction, I know.

Thanks Pandabonium for the link to Our Renewable Future, a book and website that is a great resource about this era. Nice to see that the debate has matured to this level (despite what you may see in the mainstreem press in some countries with their heads still stuck in the sand, ahem, make that tar-sand).

Maybe my only issue with this is the language, and the authors' focus on "energy use" while I prefer the term "energy consumption." The difference, to me working for 20 years in the consumer movement, is that when we "consume" we do so with awareness, and to the degree that we can, responsibility. To just "use" is to take that away. Responsibly reducing energy consumption is the only way to solve the many issues facing mankind.

Already in the early 1960s, US President J. F. Kennedy pioneered the idea of consumer rights, a profound concept that has since been developed all around the world. That is a concept that still strongly empowers the consumer organizations, as well as the environmental organizations, that try to educate people and create a more sustainable future for us all on this finite planet.

Join the fun, but do take a look at Our Renewable Future, a remarkable research project by Richard Heinberg and David Fridley!

The book concludes by discussing the critically important questions of how to ensure that everyone benefits from the renewable energy transition and what steps can and should be taken now to put us on a path toward a truly just and sustainable future. The goal of this book is to help readers think more clearly and intelligently about our renewable future. An all-renewable world will present opportunities as well as challenges. And building that world will entail more than just the construction of enormous numbers of solar panels and wind turbines. Along the way, we will learn that how we use energy is as important as how we get it. Indeed, unless we adapt our energy usage patterns with the same vigor as is devoted to changing energy sources, the transition could result in a substantial reduction of economic functionality for society as a whole.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bhutan 100% Organic

Koa Tasaka, head of Consumers Union of Japan where I work, has a great affection for Bhutan, the small kingdom north of India. He is impressed by their agricultural practices: they have announced that the entire country will become 100% organic.

The Guardian: Political parties in the Himalayan kingdom unite to eradicate chemical fertilisers and pesticides as part of its Gross National Happiness programme

Agriculture and forests minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho, who held the post in the previous government, say there is a united commitment to rid the country of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
While no formal timeframe has been put in place, both politicians believe that the goal is within sight as long as practical natural solutions can be found to the pest and disease problems still affecting a few crops. In order to speed up the search for these answers, Bhutan recently brought together experts on organic agriculture from across the world.

Imagine that. An entire nation can make a choice to avoid harmful pesticides and herbicides.

And here is a wonderful blog post about the Bhutan Royal visit to Japan in 2011, including their message to people in Fukushima, which they visited.

Soma City - Fukushima. His Majesty joins in for the prayer ceremony led by venerable Dorji Lopen - Bhutan's second highest monk. "No nation or people should ever have to experience such suffering. And yet if there is one nation who can rise stronger and greater from such adversity – it is Japan and her People. Of this I am confident." The King had told in his address to the Japanese parliament.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Congratulations, C W Nicol

Emperor and Empress visit central Japan forest managed by British-born author C.W. Nicol


Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Monday paid a visit to woodland restored by British-born writer and environmentalist C.W. Nicol in Nagano Prefecture.
The couple took a stroll in Afan Woodland in the town of Shinano, with the Emperor asking Nicol the names of various plants. As he walked through the forest, the Emperor said, “It feels good.”
The wooded area, which takes its name from a forest park in Wales, had been cut down and was neglected for more than 40 years until the 1980s. The 75-year-old author, who now has Japanese citizenship and has been a columnist for The Japan Times since 2002, has long been involved in efforts to restore its original ecosystem by taking care of trees there.
The Imperial Couple were staying in the prefecture to attend the annual National Arbor Day Festival in the city of Nagano on Sunday to promote forestry and protection of the natural environment.
During their three-day trip to Nagano through Monday, the Imperial Couple also met with five residents of the village of Sakae, which was hit by a powerful earthquake on March 12, 2011, the day after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated wide areas of the Tohoku region.
In 2012, the Emperor and Empress visited temporary housing units in the village to offer encouragement to the survivors.