Profit or Safety?

Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012

Power use falls; reactors unneeded

July saw 6.3% drop in demand despite heat amid efforts to save


Staff writer

Sales by 10 major power utilities in July dropped by 6.3 percent due to a decline in demand, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan has revealed.

But while efforts to cut down electricity use by households and the business sector are paying off, some say the numbers prove that last month's reactivation of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture may have been unnecessary.

"Electricity utilities may be opting to restart their nuclear reactors since they are cheaper than thermal power plants," Hideyuki Koyama, executive director of Mihama no Kai, which opposes Kepco's nuclear power use, told The Japan Times.

"The data are solid proof that Japan can supply enough electricity even without any nuclear power generation," he stressed.

The federation said Monday that overall electricity use in July dropped 6.3 percent compared with the same month last year. Nine out of 10 utilities reported a decline in sales, with the exception being Tohoku Electric Power Co., where recovery from the March 2011 disasters is making progress.

Rolling blackouts are to be implemented if necessary this summer in the Kansai region and Kyushu, but so far none has been needed.

The decline in electricity demand also came even though higher than average temperatures were recorded nationwide last month, according to the Meteorological Agency.

In announcing the restart of the two Oi reactors, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in June warned that it was aimed at supporting the economy and the public's livelihood. His appeal was validated at least in the Kansai region, where electricity demand would have surpassed supply levels during peak hours had the reactors remained offline.

But pundits say that instead of relying on nuclear power, Kepco could have easily covered any shortage by requesting neighboring electricity utilities, which had an oversupply, to provide backup.

"Reactivation of the reactors was decided considering the cost and profits of the electricity utilities," Mihama no Kai's Koyama said. "But under the circumstances, nuclear plants should be shut down for the safety of the public."


Let's Hope It's True...

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

DPJ vow for next poll: a nuclear phaseout


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's party is arranging to make a nuclear phaseout a key policy pledge in the next general election, sources in the Democratic Party of Japan said.

The DPJ's plan comes amid widespread opposition to the continued use of nuclear energy. Noda has drawn strong public protests over his recent decision to approve the restart of two reactors at the Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture, the first reactivations since all of the country's reactors went offline amid the Fukushima nuclear disaster that started last year.

Many DPJ lawmakers fear the ruling party, via the restarts, signalled to the public that it is keen on using nuclear power when this is not the case, a senior party member said Sunday.


Like canaries in mines? Butterflies

Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012

Radioactive fallout from Fukushima nuclear meltdowns caused abnormalities in Japan's butterflies


Radioactive fallout from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture created abnormalities among the nation's butterflies, according to a team of researchers.

"We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima (No. 1) nuclear power plant caused physiological and genetic damage" to pale grass blue butterflies, a common species in Japan, a recent article in Scientific Reports, one of on-line journals of the Nature Publishing Group, said.

Radiation exposure harmed butterflies' genes, and the damage could well be passed on to future generations, the article stated.

"Sensitivity (to irradiation) varies between species, so research should be conducted on other animals," said Joji Otaki, a team member and associate professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa.

"Humans are totally different from butterflies and they should be far more resistant" to the health effects of radiation, Otaki noted.

The researchers collected 121 adult pale grass blue butterflies in and outside Fukushima Prefecture in May 2011, two months after the nuclear crisis started.

Abnormalities such as unusually small wings were found in 12 percent of the total. But the rate rose to 18 percent in a second generation produced through mating among the butterflies collected and some even died before reaching adulthood.

When second generation butterflies with abnormal traits mated with healthy ones, the rate of abnormalities rose to 34 percent in the third generation, according to the article.

The team collected another 238 butterflies last September and determined that the abnormality rate stood at 28 percent. However, it nearly doubled to 52 percent among a second generation born to the original butterflies caught.

The researchers said the butterflies collected in May were heavily exposed to radiation as larvae. The impact was apparently more severe on the second generation, as well as on the butterflies collected in September, because they suffered heavy exposure at a far earlier stage while they were still fertilized eggs or just reproduction cells, according to the team.

The impact of artificial radiation exposure on the species was also investigated using larvae collected in Okinawa, one of the prefectures least affected by fallout from the nuclear disaster.

After the larvae were exposed to radiation and fed with leaves contaminated with radioactive materials, similar rates of abnormalities and premature deaths were observed, the article said.


A Haiku Innovation

So many people around the world enjoy reading and creating haiku poems. Here is an innovative idea from the hometown of haiku master Shiki Masaoka, Matsuyama City on the island of Shikoku:

Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012

EU commissioner posts two haiku


BRUSSELS — An EU commissioner Wednesday put two haiku about last year's March 11 disasters in a mailbox set up in Brussels by the city of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture.

The haiku are:

When I came in spring

The land was in great turmoil

Together we heal


Met Japan's heroes

Saw fortitude and courage

Has inspired my life

Matsuyama placed the mailbox in the Belgian capital in a bid to boost tourism. Matsuyama is the hometown of renowned haiku poet Shiki Masaoka. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, a haiku fan, and others have put their haiku in the mailbox, the first such box installed overseas by the city.


There's a little light...

There is a tiny bit of light shining from the end of a very dark tunnel. Let's hope nobody turns it off:

Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012

Ospreys to stay grounded for now

Pentagon chief bans test flights until Japan OKs aircraft's safety

AP, AFP-Jiji

WASHINGTON — The United States will suspend all flight operations by MV-22 Ospreys in Japan until Tokyo confirms the tilt-rotor aircraft's safety, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

Panetta told reporters Friday at the Pentagon that U.S. officials are completing a safety report and will provide Japan with details about two recent crashes involving Ospreys in Morocco and Florida.


Wanna buy an Edsel?

Just because they built it doesn't mean people need it or want it.
Here's more on the Osprey helicopter:

Friday, Aug. 3, 2012

Osprey deployment makes no sense: ex-Pentagon official


WASHINGTON — A former U.S. Defense Department official who helped develop the Osprey aircraft has said their planned deployment to the Futenma air base in Okinawa is irrational, given their poor safety record.

"To put a machine like that . . . in a very, very densely populated part of the world in my view makes no sense and I'm not quite sure what military benefit you get out of it being there," Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985, said.

Korb, now with the Center for American Progress think tank, indicated that while the safety of the Osprey has improved, he is "still doubtful" about the aircraft's autorotation capability during an engine-out landing.

"It's a weapon system that should never have been built," he concluded. The former Pentagon official also stressed there is no urgent need to send MV-22s to the Futenma base, which is in a crowded district of Ginowan.