Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘Science and technology’ Category

Bloody good for you

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 24, 2012

FROM the front lines of scientific research in Japan comes some news that you can use for the holidays. Two pharmacologists, Oshima Shunji of the Asahi Lab Garden and Aizawa Koichi of Kagome, conducted a study that found the combination of alcohol and tomato juice stimulates the metabolism with the effect of accelerating sobriety and reducing or preventing hangover symptoms.

Dr. Oshima said the inspiration for the research came from his desire to enjoy after-work drinks with his colleagues and his knowledge that too much booze was bad for you. He wanted to discover what food consumed with alcohol had the most beneficial effects, and decided to start with vegetables.

After finding that vegetables didn’t do a whole lot, they said they thought of using tomatoes. Drinkers’ wisdom has it that tomatoes either prevent or quickly cure hangovers. Then there were the examples of the Bloody Mary and the Red Eye, which I had never heard of before reading this report.

The researchers started by giving the water-soluble constituents of tomatoes — i.e., tomato juice — and lycopene to mice, injected them with alcohol, and then measured the concentration of alcohol in their blood. The results inspired them to try a similar experiment with humans.

They give 12 healthy men tomato juice with 5% alcohol, and then shochu with 5% alcohol. Their measurements showed the tomatoes reduced the concentration of alcohol in the blood by 30%, accelerated the process of breaking up the alcohol in the body, and eliminated it from the system 50 minutes faster.

Those with the proper scientific detachment will be interested to learn that the water-soluble constituents of tomatoes activate the enzymes that break up the alcohol in the liver.

Everyone else will be interested to learn that Dr. Oshima’s employer makes Asahi beer, and Dr. Aizawa’s employer Kagome is a food product company whose primary products include tomato juice and catsup.

The two companies jointly sponsored the research. They were already very familiar with each other because they finalized a mutual shareholding agreement in February.

Now who says scientific research is dry!

Looks like these Tomato-chans knocked back a few Asahis before filming started.

Posted in Food, Science and technology | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Music made easy

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 2, 2012

MANY people wish they could play music like Beethoven or Jimi Hendrix, but few have the talent or the discipline to bring their chops to that level.

But the wild and crazy guys at Maywa Denki, the self-described “parallel-world electricians”, have solved that problem with the otamatone. Here’s the regular version (note the shape):

Here’s the jumbo version:

And here’s the bilingual website. Once upon a time, they were a subcontractor for Toshiba and Panasonic. Not any more!

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, Music, New products, Science and technology | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (231)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 16, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Whenever I Tweet to defend the use of nuclear power, there are many responses that question my character as a person. Do these people think someone who defends the use of nuclear power is a villain who gives precedence to his own interests over the rights and lives of others? Do they so strongly believe that an anti-nuclear power stance is so moral and proper? It is difficult to debate with a group who thinks they are morally correct, just as it is with the anti-whaling forces. The people who would doubt a person’s character because of their positions should try asking themselves just what morality is.

– Baba Masahiro, coming to understand that the mindset of certain groups in the West has now infected some people in Japan.

Posted in Quotations, Science and technology, Social trends | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Letter bombs (25): The origins of stake terror!

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 11, 2012

READER Ken sent the following YouTube video of a segment that was presented on the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS-TV) during its 8:00 a.m. program. There was no information about the year, but it might have been 2007. In any event, the activities described in the video continue today. It has Japanese subtitles, which I’ve translated into English.

Female anchor: Do you remember that Japan drove metal piles into the ground throughout our country during its forced occupation to disrupt the vitality of our race? Recently several large wooden piles were discovered on Mt. Gaehwa in Seoul. These are presumed to have been driven in by Japan.

Male anchor: It’s the first time wooden and not metal piles have been discovered…used for a feng shui invasion. This reminds us once again of the intensity of the Japanese desire for domination.

Male reporter (Kim Hak-je): Sixteen wooden piles, 27 metal piles, and two piles made of stone were discovered on Mt. Gaehwa. They managed to remove the metal and stone piles, but the wooden piles discovered later were quite large, and the removal work has so far not been easy. We set out to discover who drove in those piles, how they did it, and for what reason.

Voiceover: Mt. Gaehwa is about 130 meters above sea level on the other side of the Han River from the Haengju Fortress. Thick wooden piles of indeterminate form rose on the summit of the mountain.

It’s 2.85 meters high and has a circumference of 83 centimeters. Does it get thicker the further down it goes?

There were 16 in all, each of slightly different lengths and thicknesses. A specialist in the hexed metal piles began the work to remove them last month.

Seo Yun-yeong, Chairman of the Committee to Promote the Vitality of the Race: I’ve already removed a lot of these hexed metal piles. But this is the first time I’ve seen so many wood ones…The purpose of these piles was probably the same as the metal and stone ones.

Voiceover: On the day we visited the site, the real size and shape was revealed of the long wooden pile that was deeply buried in the earth.

Seo: Ah, it’s out! Your role is now finished. This poison pin!

Voiceover: The metal and stone piles that were discovered last September have all been removed. Also discovered was a thick wire coiled around the metal and stone piles to connect them.

Seo: So we Koreans would find it difficult to live…so no great people would be born in Korea…for this wicked objective, they used nature. It’s frightening.

Voiceover: Here is the place where what are thought to be hexed piles were buried. Twenty-seven metal piles, two stone piles, and now 16 of the wooden piles have been discovered for the first time in the country. But the people who lived in the vicinity had no suspicions about the real nature of the wooden piles, unlike those for the metal piles. It had been said for many years that they were used for military drills.

Lee Jeong-hun, Seoul: They say there was a military drill area here in the past. I heard there were no wooden piles, but they carried ropes for training.

Voiceover: But after suspicions began to surface, the squad conducted the work for confirmation at the site three times. We received a reply from military sources that the wooden piles on Mt. Gaehwa had no connection with a military facility. The location was unsuitable for military training purposes. They explained military technology at the time was incapable of burying the wooden piles in such a sophisticated way.

Seo: Cement and rock, cement and rock. There are 12 layers of rock and 12 layers of cement, 24 altogether. Just who buried these piles with this sophistication and with these numbers in mind?

Voiceover: There was also a space intentionally created between the lower part of the wood and the bottom. It was filled with oil, which seems to have been to prevent rot.

Seo: The odor is gross. It was filled with oil.

Voiceover: Scholars of feng shui geography have noted that Mt. Gaehwa on the other side of the Han River from Haengju Fortress was an important control barrier

Shin Sang-yun, Head of the Asia Feng Shui Geography Research Institute: This was to prevent good fortune from moving to the northwest. The metal, stone, and wooden piles were put in a place in the mountain to prevent the fortune from rising.

Voiceover: A large quantity of piles resembling this have been discovered throughout the country at sites of maximum good fortune (from a feng shui perspective).

Prof. Seo Gil-su, Seokyeong University: There have been at least several hundred of these found throughout the country. One person isn’t capable of doing the amount of work involved. This was planned and thoroughly prepared, and the theory of feng shui geography was used for the piles as a kind of invasion of our vitality.

Voiceover: How many places and in what forms do piles such as those discovered at Mt. Gaehwa remain as the residuum of the Japanese forced occupation period? The things we want to know and the concerns are growing.

An excerpt said to be from the 21 April 2006 edition of the Dong-a Ilbo:

The answer is that these were benchmarks or triangulation points for surveying, piles for civil engineering use, or for climbing mountains. From this excess of hatred for the Japanese, the result of going around and digging up these piles has been the loss of 60% of the benchmarks and triangulation points in one year.

Note that the reporter in the story wonders how they were all driven in. One wonders if he thinks pile driving technology is all that complicated.

This first came to public awareness during the Kim Young-sam administration in 1995 as part of the 50th anniversary of liberation, and the tabloid press was instrumental in keeping it there. Typical storylines:

* “Imperial Japan’s feng shui conspiracy to eliminate the vitality of our race and cause disasters for our country!”

* “Imperial Japan feared Korea, and they drove in all these metal piles in lines that would sever energy flow to destroy Korean superiority and strength.”

The work to remove the piles began at the urging of the government, it was officially sanctioned, and there were rumors of the sale of pile removal rights to certain large companies.

Some of the piles that were removed are exhibited at the Wonju Municipal Museum as important historical artifacts.

It is still possible to read the advice of some of the oh-so-well-intentioned and the oh-so-superficially-knowledgeable in academia and thinktankeria that Japan must “face up to history”, don the hair shirt, and enter perpetual apology mode.

Apart from the fundamental errors on which those assumptions are based, such behaviors would have no effect.

Nothing will have any effect until some people on the Korean Peninsula grow out of their enthrallment with the East Asian equivalent of dancing for rain with snakes in their mouths.

Posted in History, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Science and technology, South Korea | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Kan non-power

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Kan was out of control, his anger was frightening…One prime minister destroying Japan…In terms of the monetary of damage they caused, the prime ministers would rank in this order: Konoe Fumimaro, Tojo Hideki, and Kan (Naoto).
– Ishii Takaaki, freelance journalist covering science and technology issues

THE following news report speaks for itself:

The nation’s 10 electric power companies released their interim reports for the term ended September 2012. The sharp increase in fuel costs for thermal power generation (i.e., oil and coal) to replace the idled nuclear power plants resulted in eight utility companies recording net losses of JPY 670 billion, or about $US 8.4 billion. (The exceptions were Hokuriku and Okinawa.) Kansai Electric and Kyushu Electric have already announced they will raise rates, and Tohoku Electric, Shikoku Electric, and Hokkaido Electric said they were considering it.

The aggregate fuel costs for the 10 companies totaled JPY 3.5 trillion, 1.4 times greater than the year-before period.

In other words, the losses average out to one billion dollars per utility over the past six months.

This insert is from another source about Kyushu Electric Power:

The utility posted its worst performance ever on the interim report for September 2012 when it showed a final loss of JPY 165 billion yen. Kyushu Electric will probably not pay dividends, the first time that will have happened since its founding in 1951.

Back to the conclusion of the original report, which is difficult to read without choking:

The rate increases will have a serious impact on household budgets and corporate operations. If the companies apply to raise rates, the stance of the government will be to strongly urge them to cut personnel expenses and other costs.

How about if the government allows them to conduct their business of generating power and gets out of the way?

The slogan of Kan Naoto’s Democratic Party of Japan is “Putting People First”. The words might change, but the sentiment is the same for left-of-center parties everywhere. So are the results when they are allowed to try their ideas in the real world: Putting it to the People First.

That slogan and others like it are the ultimate in spin doctoring. The message is only the medium for seizing power. The motivating spirit is vindictiveness, and you can see it in their eyes: Kan Naoto, Fukushima Mizuho, and the other people for whom voting is an act of revenge.

They’re the people who don’t know who built what because they’ve never built anything themselves and wouldn’t know where to start. Their instincts run to tearing things down.

A clean, bright, healthy future for our children?

Not if you replace the rose-colored glasses with a green eyeshade and do the arithmetic.

Some people actually prefer the Dark Ages:

Who are the politicians that these people support, and who are the politicians that would speak for them?

Who are the real enemies of the people, comrades?

All you have to do is look.

Moriya Hideo wrote and performs on this piece called Kan-Non Power. Twenty years down the road, only the hyphen has moved.

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Science and technology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The power of scum

Posted by ampontan on Monday, November 5, 2012

BIOFUELS are yet another example of how good intentions create unintended results that cause more problems than the one they set out to solve. Farmers in both developed and undeveloped countries can get more cash for their grain crops by selling them for fuel conversion rather than as food. Food shortages caused by the lack of affordable grain was one of the reasons for the political unrest in Tunisia and Egypt.

Some scientists are examining the use of other materials for biofuel use, and one of those materials is algae. They generate hydrocarbons when they grow and when their cells divide. But algaculture for fuel use has been impractical because the process of obtaining oil in quantity from them is slow and difficult.

That might be changing. Two years ago, Prof. Enomoto Taira of Kobe University discovered a variety of the botrycoccus alga that reproduces by photosynthesis alone and multiplies 100,000 times greater by volume than other botrycoccus in one month. It also produces a quantity of hydrofuel equivalent to 30 times its weight. In fact, it has the highest energy production of any alga in the world and more than 100 times the energy production per unit of area cultivated than other biofuels.

Prof. Enomoto is working with the Japanese companies IHI Corp., Gene and Gene Technology, and the Neo-Morgan Laboratory Inc. to improve and commercialize the process of fuel conversion using the alga that has been named after him. The hydrocarbon produced is said to be suited for use as fuel oil. Another advantage of the alga is that it’s said to be robust, which means that it could be grown in the open in ponds instead of photobioreactors.

Problems remain to be resolved, and they’re still in the process of developing cultivation techniques and facilities. It’s not economically competitive yet, because the fuel product now costs JPY 1,000 yen per liter. If science has its way, however — making everything smaller, cheaper, and faster — those problems will eventually be ironed out.

Neo-Morgan Laboratory President Fujita Tomohiro agrees:

“We want to reduce the price to 10% (to JPY 100) in ten years. It shouldn’t be impossible.”

No, it shouldn’t. And that might help Japan reduce its level of energy dependency. It would also allow grains to be used for food again, instead of biofuels — which gobble up 40% of the American corn crop and nearly 20% of British wheat and corn production. People don’t eat algae.

Well, yes they do. It is an ingredient in some food products, including ice cream, and it’s used for supplements. But you know what I mean.

Speaking of slime, it’s time to let some rip with Rip Slyme.

The group chose that name because RIP were the initials of the names of three founding members, and the Mattel-manufactured toy product Slime was popular at the time.

I prefer the name Sunshine and Bikinis, which is the name of this song. It’s also got a pink Cadillac, if you can tear your eyes away from the other performers.

So fine!

Posted in Agriculture, Science and technology | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (84)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 22, 2012

Temporary bus service that began at the end of the summer on 55 kilometers of the railroad line between Kessennuma and Yanaizu in Miyagi Prefecture, rendered unusable by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

Photo by Sankei Shimbun.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Science and technology, Social trends | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (203)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, October 20, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

The anti-nuclear power people whose Twitter accounts I follow don’t write such nonsense as, “There are a lot of people in Tokyo with nosebleeds!” That so-called “freelance journalists” who attend the news conferences of (Osaka Mayor) Hashimoto Toru ask questions of that sort makes me think that kisha clubs are needed after all.

– Baba Masahiro

Posted in Mass media, Quotations, Science and technology | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (187)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 1, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Putting aside the emotions that arose immediately after (the Fukushima nuclear accident), the people who still make a ruckus because “radition is frightening” are publicly declaring, “I am an idiot.”

– Ikeda Nobuo, professor, author, blogger

Posted in Quotations, Science and technology | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Compare and contrast

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 15, 2012

HERE’S one of the top stories of the day yesterday from Japan. It appeared in many news outlets around the world:

Japan’s government said it intends to stop using nuclear power by the 2030s, marking a major shift from policy goals set before last year’s Fukushima disaster that sought to increase the share of atomic energy to more than half of electricity supply.

Japan joins countries such as Germany and Switzerland in turning away from nuclear power after last year’s earthquake unleashed a tsunami that swamped the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. Japan was the third-biggest user of atomic energy before the disaster.

In abandoning atomic power, Japan aims to triple the share of renewable power to 30 percent of its energy mix, but will remain a top importer of oil, coal and gas for the foreseeable future…

…“This is a strategy to create a new future,” a policy statement said, after key ministers finalized the decision on Friday. “It is not pie in the sky. It is a practical strategy.”…

…By applying a strict 40-year limit on the lifetime of reactors, most will be shut down by the 2030s.

The same story was reported in Japan in the same way.

Now here’s another story reported today by the Yomiuri Shimbun, only in Japanese:

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry authorizes the construction of Oma Nuclear Plant Reactor #3 in Shimane

On September 15, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Edano Yukio met in Aomori City with Aomori Gov. Mimura Shingo and the mayors of municipalities where nuclear facilities are located. He told them he would authorize the resumption of construction and operation of the Oma Nuclear Power Plant in Oma-cho, Aomori, and Reactor #3 of the Shimane Nuclear Power Plant in Matsue, Shimane, which had been suspended after the Tohoku earthquake.

If construction resumes, it would be the first construction of nuclear reactors since the disaster.

As part of the “Revolutionary Strategy for Energy and the Environment” adopted on September 14, the national government set 2030 as the target for stopping nuclear power plant operation. If the government rule of limiting nuclear power plant operation to 40 years is applied, these plants will be allowed to operate into the 2050s. This quickly exposed a contradiction in the new energy strategy.

Mr. Edano said at the meeting:

“The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is not thinking of changing its position on those nuclear power plants with permits and construction plans for building a reactor.”

This indicates the ministry’s intention to allow the resumption of construction and operation if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirms their safety. The Commission will be established on September 19.

Construction has been partially completed on Reactor #1 at the Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant in Higashidori-mura, Aomori, by Tokyo Electric Power. Mr. Edano said, however:

“Tokyo Electric is not yet at the stage to discuss nuclear energy.”

This indicates construction at the Higashidori Reactor #1 will not resume now.

2030 is far, far away, the Democratic Party government is not long for this world, national defense requirements will push the issue in the opposite direction, and the nuclear power interests haven’t gone to sleep.

Expect Japan to go nuclear free when it goes nuclear free, and not before.

Here’s another power company asking if you’re ready for it.

Posted in Mass media, Science and technology | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (49)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tokyo Electric Power released roughly 600 photographs taken at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant immediately before and after the 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. This one shows the landing dock just before the tsunami arrived, with the water withdrawing and exposing the dock.

And this one shows the tsunami coming.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Science and technology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Hydrogen and arsenic

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 1, 2012


IF you want to take the waters in Japan — and most here people do — the best place might be the Kiku-no-Yu hot springs in Kaga, Ishikawa.

That’s the conclusion of Hirose Yukio, professor emeritus at Kanazawa University and an Ig Nobel laureate in 2003. Prof. Hirose, whose field is natural science, is a spa lover. His scientific curiosity was engaged to discover the reason that hot springs visits were so refreshing. He thought measuring the hydrogen content of the waters would produce the answer. Hydrogen removes active oxygen from the body, and active oxygen accelerates aging and contributes to obesity. It would also, say the scientists, contribute to the relief of stress and fatigue.

Prof. Hirose found that the Kiku-no-Yu waters are loaded with hydrogen. The professor visited many spas to measure their hydrogen content — which sounds like a great gig to me — and during a visit to Kiku-no-Yu #2 in May, obtained a reading of 400 parts per billion of hydrogen per liter. Most spa water doesn’t reach 100 ppb. He went back to the main onsen in August and got a reading of 604 ppb. He thinks that might be the highest of any spa in Japan.

That must mean the Kiku-no-Yu waters are H2O+.

Prof. Hirose received the Ig Nobel for his research into the reason pigeons and crows avoided crapping on the bronze statue of Yamato Takeru-no-Mikoto in Kenroku Park, also in Ishikawa. This is the one:

Yamato Takeru, who might have been legendary, was the son of the Emperor Keiko, the twelfth Emperor of Japan and probably a legend himself. If he lived, it was in the first and second centuries. The prince is said to have pacified the barbarian tribes in the north of Japan, and I don’t know if they were legendary or not.

The burning question was why the birds left the prince clean and pure but crapped all over the other statues in the park (which is a lovely place, judging from its website.)

It turned out the birds didn’t care for the trace amount of arsenic in the alloys used to cast that statue.

The professor has also published a book on the proper brewing and tasting of espresso.

And while we’re on the subject of unique Japanese guys, try this Youtube of well-known comedian Shimura Ken playing shamisen while even better-known comedian, actor, and international award-winning film director Kitano (Beat) Takeshi tap dances. Yes, really.

The person who uploaded the video doesn’t want it to be embedded, but you can see it here — and you should!

Posted in History, Science and technology, Traditions | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Lethal ladybugs

Posted by ampontan on Friday, August 31, 2012

The flightless aphid killer

FARMERS love ladybugs because they’re the natural predators of aphids, scales, mites, moth larvae, and other natural predators of their crops. That’s why they love to have ladybugs make a habit of hanging out at the farm. But the problem is one of unrequited love — the farmers can’t make them stay once they get there. They have wings and fly away, even when they’re released in a greenhouse. Ladybugs just got to be free.

Seko Tomokazu and his team at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Fukuyama, Hiroshima, got to work on a way to neuter that flightiness. The team used measuring instruments to find and isolate the ladybugs that had trouble flying. They got them to mix and mingle, and finally succeeded in producing a landlubber strain that doesn’t fly at all. It just walks. Put one on a stick, and it strolls to the end and back down again without taking off. In other words, the scientists turned an inherited drawback for coccinellidae into an advantage.

Ladybugs can produce up to seven generations in a year, and it took from 20-35 generations to breed a master race of flightless aphid eaters. After all that effort, their next step was obvious. They registered it with the Agriculture Ministry as a biological control agent. Time to make some money off those bugs!

Here’s a Youtube that’s a slice of life its own self. Watch as a ladybug wolfs down an aphid. Who knew they were so ruthless?

Posted in Agriculture, Science and technology | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Power grab

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, August 26, 2012

OLD Ma Necessity has come for an extended uninvited stay in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident and the subsequent idling of most of the country’s nuclear power plants. That’s spurred some inventive Japanese scientists to attack the problem of renewable energy power generation.

Lens windmills

One of the most ambitious plans is part of a project now being conducted by a team led by Kyushu University Prof. Oya Yuji in Hakata Bay, off Fukuoka Prefecture. They’ve developed what they call a lens windmill whose design triples the amount of power a conventional windmill can generate.

In Stage One of the project, which started last December and will run for a year, the two 3 kW lens windmills shown above have been placed on a floating platform with solar power cells and a large storage battery. They’re calling it a floating maritime power farm. They plan to eventually add equipment that generates power from tidal currents and waves. Prof. Oya thinks the lens windmills would be practical if they could be made larger.

One of the advantages of maritime windmills is that the wind is stronger over the sea. Also, renewable energy power generators require a large surface area, and Japan has a limited amount of surface area for equipment of this type. They’ve got plenty of sea all around them, however.

Stage Two of his project is to place an interconnected floating platform in the Korean Strait with five 200 kW lens windmills. His team is already working on a design for 1,000 kW models.

An intriguing aspect to the plan is the idea of using the platforms as small fishing ports. Sweden and Denmark both operate maritime windmills, and they’ve discovered that fish like to hang out nearby for reasons that no one can explain. Fishermen are unanimous in their belief that this is an excellent idea for an experiment. There are even suggestions that fish farms could be created below the platforms.

Several problems remain. One is that the production costs for the lens windmills have to be lowered. Another is the space requirement. Even when commercialized, it would require 230 windmills to produce the output of the #1 generator at the Fukushima plant alone.

Seawater temperatures

Several companies are working with the Okinawa Prefecture Deep Sea Water Research Center in Kumejima-cho, Okinawa, on an ocean thermal energy conversion project that will run until next March. The idea is to use the difference in the ocean water temperature at the surface and that at greater depths. A temperature differential of 20 degrees (I assume centigrade) is required for this to work, so that means the tropics and the subtropics are the ideal location. That’s Okinawa!

In this process, the difference in water temperatures is used to gasify ammonia and other substances with low boiling points, which rotates a turbine. The power output is only 50 kW, but this is a trial, after all. The center says it is the world’s first trial using this process with the objective of commercialization.


They’re ready to go commercial at a ryokan, or Japanese-style inn, in the hot springs resort town of Yufuin, Oita. Starting in December, the ryokan will use a 70 kW generator that Kobe Steel put on the market last fall to generate electricity using the hot springs on the site. Not only do they expect to cover their own energy needs, they also plan to sell the surplus power generated to Kyushu Electric Power under the system for the sale of renewable energy at a fixed cost that began in July. Kobe Steel says that if the power is sold at 20 yen per kW, the ryokan could recover the costs by 2015.

That highlights another problem with these systems. It costs Kyushu Electric JPY 10 yen per kW for the power generated by nuclear plants. These costs in the aggregate will be passed on to the utility’s consumers. In other words, the government scheme amounts to a renewable energy tax.

And they’ve already gone commercial throughout Japan in the use of processed sewer sludge — yeah, that — as a biomass fuel for power generation. Kumamoto City plans to commercialize an operation in 2013, and Kitakyushu is planning to do the same in 2015. Construction work started on the plant in Kumamoto City in January. When it begins operating next January, it will have the capacity to process 16,000 tons of the sludge, roughly half the amount produced in the city. That will be converted to 2,300 tons of fuel for use at power plants.

Here’s an idea: Create smaller models of this equipment and place them in the buildings that house national and sub-national legislatures. We wouldn’t have to worry about nuclear energy or lens windmills again.

Seeing as how Okinawa came up in the discussion, here’s Okinawan Natsukawa Rimi singing an island song.

Posted in Science and technology | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Edano the economist

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, August 15, 2012

THE Fukushima nuclear accident, the consequent idling of Japan’s nuclear power plants, and the controversial resumption of generation at the Oi plants in Fukui have spurred a debate about the country’s use of nuclear power in the future.

The zero option has been criticized by business and financial circles as unrealistic. During a news conference last week, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Edano Yukio responded to that criticism:

“The sooner we develop and spread the use of renewable energy and energy conservation technology, the sooner we can require this be linked to the expansion of domestic demand. I do not think that the zero nuclear option will be a negative for the economy as a whole. Rather, if we do it properly, it will be a plus.”

To paraphrase the late Adlai Stevenson, in a democracy anyone can get elected. That’s the chance you have to take.

Then again, maybe he didn’t really mean it. He is a politician (and a lawyer) after all, so he quickly switched to the other side of his mouth. When asked to what extent public opinion would be incorporated in energy policy, he answered:

“It can’t be done mechanically. A comprehensive evaluation is our only choice.”

The reason a comprehensive evaluation is important is to prevent one segment of public opinion, based only on emotion, from swaying the determination of final policy. Elected officials with access to expert opinion should make those decisions by incorporating such considerations as technology, safety, and the economic impact.

Oh, wait…

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Science and technology | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »