Category Archives: Energy

Concerns About Japan’s MagLev Train Project

Consumers Union of Japan went on a field trip to investigate the current problems surrounding the massive project to build a MagLev superconductive train system (known as “Linear” in Japanese). Before the trip, we talked to our guide, the director of Gauss Network, Mr. Kakehi Tetsuo, an expert on magnetic field radiation issues.

These are some of the main concerns:

The system selected to run Japan’s Central Shinkansen MagLev train is to use refrigerated liquid helium at minus 269 C and make the resistance or impedance zero. This is based on superconducting magnets. But there is a possibility that the cooling system will fail. This abnormal termination is known as “magnet quench” and would certainly lead to accidents. For example, the high speed train may hit the walls of the tunnels. There are no examples of such a superconducting system having any practical use anywhere in the world.

The amount of energy needed for this supercooling apparatus is immense. As much as 3.5 times as much energy is needed compared to running one of the current, traditional Shinkansen trains, and it could be more according to some experts. They will need at least an extra nuclear plant just to provide the electricity.

A very strong magnetic field around the train will be generated by such a system. We assume that there will be some kind of shield or screen to protect the passengers. However, in March 2018, Mr. Atsushi Yamada, a Kofu City Council Member, measured 300 Milligauss during a test ride. It is thought that levels above 2-3 Milligauss can be dangerous, so that is indeed a very high number.

The tunnel being planned through Japan’s Southern Alps will destroy the pristine nature of the local area. A large amount of rock and soil must be disposed of. We can expect large-scale environmental destruction, landslides and contamination of water, rivers and wells. Already, such changes in the ecosystem have been observed during the preparations for construction. The final disposal site for the estimated 56,800,000 square meters of tunnel excavation debris has not been decided. What valley or wetland will it all be buried at?

We know that passenger numbers on the current, traditional Shinkansen, the Tokaido Line, have already peaked. We know that the population of Japan will continue to decrease. We know that there is no real demand for this, and no profit to be expected, yet tax money is being invested.

Japan Resources – No 169

Please click here CUJ-JR-169 for the latest issue of Japan Resources, our English newsletter.

In this issue we introduce our new campaign against genome-manipulated food, part of our strong resistance against GMOs in general. Field trials have started even though the government is slow to act to protect consumers or farmers. The debate about nuclear power is also high-lighted with Monju, the controversial fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture in the news.

We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!

Contents:

From the Editors: Resistance and Resilience
Campaign Against Genome-manipulated Food
Press Release: Appeal for World Food Day
Food Security: Japan’s Self-sufficiency Rate for Sesame Seed Only 0.1%
Is the Consumer Agency in Fact the Industry Agency?
Pluto and Monju
News Flash: Monju Reactor Set for Decommissioning Lacks Sodium Removal Method

Please download the PDF file or read it here on our English website.

Pluto and Monju

In the old Greek mythology, Pluto was name of the god that ruled the underworld, where souls go after death. Someone who has recently been thinking about this is Nakajima Tetsuen, the head priest of the Buddhist temple Myoutsuu in Obama City, Fukui Prefecture. He currently serves as the chairperson of a local group of citizens that oppose nuclear power in the prefecture.

In December, 2016 the decision was finally taken to decommission and scrap the infamous nuclear reactor called Monju in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. To celebrate this, the citizens met on November 5, 2017 where Mr. Nakajima explained: “We should not walk the path to hell of Pluto, but instead follow the path of the Buddha, which is the path of the living.”

In Obama City, there are no nuclear power plants, but nearby, as many as 15 reactors are located around Wakasa Bay. The reason is the strong opposition by people in Obama City, led by Mr. Nakajima. In other locations that accepted nuclear plants, a splendid gymnasium or huge hot spring facilities were built using special government grants, while Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and old roads greet visitors to Obama City.

The priest of a Shingon temple with traditions dating back from the 9th century uses Buddhist teaching to communicate his message: “Maybe we can believe that Monju (also known as Manjushri) is a compassionate bodhisattva who will wake us all from the nightmare of multiplying hellish rulers…”

By Sugiura Yoko, CUJ

November 20, 2017

Japan Resources – No 166

Please click here CUJ-JR-166 for the latest issue of Consumer Union of Japan’s English newsletter, Japan Resources (pdf). The theme this time is nuclear energy and the many problems facing this country and all of us as energy consumers.

We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!

Contents:

From the Editors: Thinking about Nuclear Energy

Japan on the Wrong Track with its Export of Nuclear Plants

Do Not Shift Nuclear Power Plant Related Costs to Our Electricity Bills

Withdraw the Proposed New System to Shift Nuclear Power Plant Related Costs to Our Electricity Bills

Smart Meters: Saying No, and Yes, You Can Switch Back to an Analogue Meter

Newsflash:

The Ecologist: The Collapse of Toshiba

 

Smart Meters: Saying No, and Yes, You Can Switch Back to an Analog Meter

This is a summary of a series of articles in our monthly Japanese newsletter, Shouhisha Report, about so-called smart meters, or digital meters that use radio frequencies and electromagnetic radiation to transmit information about your home electricity use. They replace the analog meters that have to be checked by staff visiting your home. There is concern about privacy, as well as health risks, in addition to the huge cost of changing meters. In Japanese, smart meters are usually abbreviated as “sumame” and we want to clarify your rights as consumers.

The current problem is that power companies like Tepco or Kansai Electric Power are “demanding” customers to get new smart meters installed. This happens at the same time as Japan’s electricity market has been deregulated. In some cases, when customers have switched power company, the new provider has installed a smart meter without providing much information. In one such case, a CUJ member contacted us, explaining that the new provider had simply said: “Changing to a smart meter is necessary.” It later reversed its position, and admitted that this was not the case.

A staff member at our CUJ office had the same experience, and decided to dig a little further. When contacting the customer support center at Tepco, they replied in the same way: “You have to change to a smart meter.” This, however, is not true. The issue came up for debate in the budget committee of Japan’s Parliament in March, 2016, confirming that as far as contracts are concerned, smart meters are not indispensable.

The power companies have more tricks up their sleeves. Another lie is when they claim: “Analog meters are no longer manufactured, so we don’t have them in stock.” But according to experts like Taro Amishiro, author of books about electromagnetic radiation problems who is concerned about smart meters, most analog meters will work for much longer than 10 years, and don’t need to be exchanged so often. Old analog meters can also be reused.

It took our CUJ staff member several rounds of tough negotiations with Tepco’s call center to switch back to an analog meter, showing that it can be done. Another CUJ member told us that he had successfully gotten Chubu Electric Power agree to make the switch back.

The privacy concern is connected to how smart meters store data about your electricity consumption. The details are recorded by the digital device every 30 minutes. This can give power companies a very clear picture of your daily life, including when you switch on your TV or open your fridge. Okubo Sadatoshi, an expert on electromagnetic radiation and radio wave health problems, notes that even if the power company agrees to disable the transmission from your smart meter, the data is still stored digitally in the device. In other words, it can still be accessed and the problem of invasion of privacy remains.

Doorstep visitors or phone calls claiming they want to install a smart meter may be someone trying to scam you, so don’t fall for their sales talk. Says Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ: “Please pay attention to any information you get from your current power company as they roll out the switch to smart meters. You have the right to say no, and it is up to you to tell them that you prefer to keep your analog meter. If they customer call center gives you a hard time, just stand your ground. They can’t force you to switch to a smart meter, and you have the right to demand to switch back to an analog meter, if you so wish.”

Read more:

Tepco to hold bids for 17 mln smart metres

Can Japan’s Energy Reforms Make Renewable Energy Growth Smarter?