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.