Was it Worth It?

This is what Kyodo news reports about the profitability of nuclear electrical generation:

"Tokyo Electric Power Co. faces a potential damages bill exceeding its profits from nuclear power generation over a 38-year period beginning in 1970, the year it opened the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 plant, according to a recent study.

Kenichi Oshima, an environmental economist and professor at Kyoto-based Ritsumeikan University, estimates that Tepco in that time earned just less than ¥4 trillion, possibly equal to or less than the amount it must pay farmers, fishermen, evacuees and others affected by the nuclear crisis.

Oshima also found that the cost of nuclear power generation is higher in Japan than that of hydraulic and thermal power, contrary to a widely disseminated government estimate."


June 23

Today is Memorial Day in Okinawa. There is a moment of silence, a lot of prayer, and a few speeches by officials. Many mark the day by visiting the peace park in Itoman, at the southern tip of the island of Okinawa.

They burn incense and leave flowers and other tokens in front of the stones engraved with the names of each and every known victim of the invasion in 1945--and because Okinawa's society is tightly knit, the names are known and still remembered. We are talking about one third of the island's population.

One elderly woman reached up as high as she could, pointing to an engraved name. "That's my father," she said. Going down the list until her pointer finger was at waist level, "My mother, my daughter, my son..."

One third of the population...


Can you say NIMBY?

The Ministry of Industry has one opinion about restarting nuclear reactors. This is what Mr. Kaieda said, as reported in The Japan Times online edition: Industry minister Banri Kaieda on Saturday called for restarting nuclear reactors currently suspended to meet summertime electricity demand, saying immediate countermeasures for severe accidents have been taken "appropriately" at the nation's power plants.

The people who live close to the nuclear reactors have a different opinion: not in my backyard.

According to safety agreements signed with power plant operators, utilities need the consent of local governments before reactors can be restarted.


Rainy Season in Tokyo

June is for rain, not for brides, but the misty days and nights can inspire one's inner romanticist. The illustrator for this cover (a monthly distributed by the Yomiuri newspapers), Keiko Uegusa, captured that sit-back-and-dream mood.

The author of this blog will be taking a short break, too, to work on her novel. Watch this space--she'll be back near the end of June.


The Show will go On! Banzai for the Met!

The opera will go on! Hurray for the general manager!

Here's some background about the situation from reporter Eric Talmadge in Tokyo:

"Gelb said the Met struggled with whether to go ahead with the performances, planned years in advance.

Last month, David Brenner, an expert on low-dose radiation, was brought in from Columbia University to meet with the company. He informed them that radiation levels in Tokyo had returned to their pre-tsunami norm, and that the airplane trip or a simple X-ray would probably lead to greater exposure than the stay in Japan.

"There are cities in Europe with higher levels," Gelb said Brenner told the performers.

According to Mr. Talmadge, all but three performers decided it's safe to be in Tokyo and even safer to be in Nagoya (also on the concert tour), and replacements have been found for the three stars who canceled.

A Smoking Bolt?

The investigation has begun. What caused parts of the engine shaft of a diesel express train to fall onto the tracks, leading to a fire and derailment, not to mention 36 injured passengers? It is too soon to say officially, but the most likely outcome is a maintenance error.

Trains that travel at high speeds on metal rails laid on the earth's surface are bound to vibrate. They can't help it. Parts will eventually fall off, unless the bolts that hold parts in place are kept fastened. This requires a lot of work by human hands.

Wouldn't it be great to have a bolt that, the more it vibrated, the tighter it fastened itself?

Guess what? There IS such a bolt. It is called the "perfect lock bolt", and it is as good as it gets in the world of metal fasteners.

Opera Can Be Unpredictable: True or False?

I vote for true!

The cancellation is disappointing, but understandable. I love this way of reframing a difficult situation:

"Two of the biggest stars of New York's Metropolitan Opera have bowed out of a Japan tour, citing fears of radioactive contamination and sending the company scrambling to find last-minute stand-ins.

Soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Joseph Calleja announced just days before the opening show that they would not join the tour of Nagoya and Tokyo despite experts' assurances they would be safe, forcing the Met to "scour the world" for replacements, general manager Peter Gelb said Tuesday.

"Part of what makes opera such an exciting art form is that it is so unpredictable," Gelb remarked. "If there were a rationality clause in opera singers' contracts, not many opera singers would perform."

Hurray for general managers who get a thrill out of problem solving!

A Teeny Bit of Silver Lining

Tragedy is devastating, but recovery can be beautiful. Among the more than 10,000 fatalities in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami were two very young English teachers from the US. If they had survived, what wonderful ambassadors between the people of Japan and America they would have become!

In their memory, a new exchange program has begun. These are the details as reported in The Japan Times online:

"Japan will invite 32 U.S. high school students who are studying Japanese to take part in a program in July to study the language and culture in memory of two American teachers killed in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, during a speech at a symposium in Tokyo on Monday, referred to the program intended to nurture people who will serve as a bridge between Japan and the United States in the future.

The program is in commemoration of Taylor Anderson, 24, and Montgomery Dickson, 26, who were taking part in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program."