Monday, May 30, 2011

the guardian reports...

The position of the International Energy Agency is interesting. The Guardian quotes Fatih Birol, chief economist of IEA.

"It means the room for manoeuvre is shrinking," warned Birol.

• Another factor that suggests emissions will continue their climb is the crisis in the nuclear power industry. Following the tsunami damage at Fukushima, Japan and Germany have called a halt to their reactor programmes, and other countries are reconsidering nuclear power.

"People may not like nuclear, but it is one of the major technologies for generating electricity without carbon dioxide," said Birol. The gap left by scaling back the world's nuclear ambitions is unlikely to be filled entirely by renewable energy, meaning an increased reliance on fossil fuels.

• Added to that, the United Nations-led negotiations on a new global treaty on climate change have stalled. "The significance of climate change in international policy debates is much less pronounced than it was a few years ago," said Birol.

But Germany not only decommissions its nuclear power plants by 2022, but also sets an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And additionally, nuclear power plants don't emit CO2 only when generating power. The mining and fuel processing emit greenhouse gas. And more importantly, they emit more toxic materials than greenhouse gas.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

what a b c do

do do not by tragicoptimist

The text is here.

In 1944, the Dadaist Kurt Schwitters wrote the following poem:

What a b what a b what a beauty

What a b what a b what a beauty
What a b what a b what a a
What a beauty beauty be
What a beauty beauty beauty be be be
What a be what a b what a beauty
What a b what a b what a a
What a be be be be be
What a be be be be be
What a be be be be be be be a beauty be be be
What a beauty.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"I Want You to Know What a Nuclear Power Plant Is"

Project East 306, a blog hosted by Adrienne Hurley, a professor at McGill University uploaded Norio Hirai's I Want You to Know What a Nuclear Power Plant Is, which was translated by Jayda Fogel and myself. The original Japanese text is now well-known due to the nuclear power plant accident. The website on which the original text appears says that the author Norio Hirai was a nuclear power plant engineer and died in 1997.

I have worked in the nuclear power plants for twenty years. There have been various debates over them. Some are for these places, others against them. Some say that they are safe; others declare that they are dangerous. I shall tell you what a nuclear power plant actually is, which few people really know. After finishing this, you will understand that every day the nuclear power plants are poisoning people, as well as causing discrimination and injustice—contrary to what you may have been told so far.

Read more of this

The original text (in Japanese)

Monday, May 16, 2011

my personal thoughts revolving around the earthquake and the nuclear power plant accident

I started blogging last year. Blogging is kind of obsolete. I used to like to read some well known, for example, Iraqis’ blogs. But they kind of ceased to post around 2007. Many are twittering or using Facebook. But I like slowness of blogging. I write about art, books, and things the world media bring up.

I still consider myself a musician, but also have recently started working as a translator. So my news sources are many, such as, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The New York Times, Democracy Now!, PBS, Comedy Central, you name it. I don’t always check all of them. These several months I’ve been checking Al Jazeera, because of what’s going on in the Middle East. I was staying up all night when it was showing Egyptians celebrating Mubarak’s resignation. I was moved. I’m definitely for those emancipatory movements. I have no theoretical background, but I believe at least we should be able to imagine a better world.

But, I hadn’t paid attention to nuclear power plants until the earthquake hit. Though I wasn’t very sure about the safety of those Japanese nuclear power plants since I knew some accidents, I wasn’t really serious. I even thought EDF, the French electric power company, was fine because I was informed that it was operating much safer plants than those in Japan.

I wasn’t really interested in what was going on in Japan. I don’t have a TV. I don’t buy Japanese newspapers. If there weren’t the earthquake and the nuclear disaster, I couldn’t become interested in the Japanese alternative media, or the Japanese media in general. When I felt the earthquake here in Tokyo, I remembered the 1995 Kobe Earthquake and intuitively anticipated this would be a huge disaster. Then I immediately started checking NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster, BBC, and Al Jazeera, at the same time.

There is of course a gap between the Japanese media and the world media, and also the mainstream and the alternative. Wherever you live in, you can find this kind of gap. And I’m much more informed by some Japanese alternative media about the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident and Japan’s nuclear policy. I’ve discovered the fact that many Japanese activists, lawyers, scientists, and engineers have long been against Japan’s nuclear policy, and I’ve eventually judged they have been right. Now many Japanese people know not only the structure of nuclear power plants or its danger, but also its history and its injustice. For example, Japan’s nuclear policy started in the 1950s as part of America’s Cold War strategy, and the Japanese mainstream media cooperated with it and orchestrated massive propaganda in order to make people see the future in nuclear power. And also, we now know the plant workers have been dying for radiation exposure: the workers who do the most dangerous job are poor, uneducated, unemployed, and even homeless. They first clean inside of the reactors and then engineers come in. Tokyo and Osaka have districts such people are staying. Recently a newspaper reported such people are recruited into Fukushima without being noticed where they would be headed. Japan’s nuclear policy exploits poor people and poor areas. The TV broadcasters may still be clueless, but I note that not only the Internet news, but also, at least some radio stations and the local newspapers no longer turn a blind eye.

By the way, I’m translating a text appearing on a Japanese website, which was written by an engineer who had for twenty years been working at some nuclear power plants. I’m doing this for Canadian students studying Japan. The website says the author Norio Hirai died in 1997, and I guess the text is based on the author’s lectures that took place around 1996. He knew soon he would die because of radiation exposure, so he was determined to speak out. He says nuclear power plants cannot be operated without exposing many workers to radiation. The workplace is extremely dangerous, so it is impossible to maintain the plants properly. The government and the power companies have hidden many accidents. I cannot verify who Norio Hirai actually is, but things he says are now unfolding in Fukushima. The authorities are now still trying to cover up all this, but actually failing to do so. This Fukushima accident is that serious. Irreversible damage has been done, and still is being done.

The authorities fail to hide things, in a way, on their own. For example, a weather woman appearing in NHK news explains, “This level of radioactivity detected in this area is equivalent of taking radiography once,” and the anchorman immediately follows, “It’s safe, safe, safe.” Any normal person must think, “Wait a minute, no one takes radiography everyday. Doesn’t this anchorman exaggerate ‘safe’ too much?” Everyone is anxious. And then the authorities say, “Don’t speak up your anxiety, it makes things worse.” Japanese people don’t talk about the elephant in the room, we are told.

There may be, in Japan, a coercive force to silence those who are trying to make noise: “You can evacuate from Fukushima if you want, but you’ll be treated as a traitor.” But, this kind of forces can be found everywhere in the world. Perhaps, Japanese people, including myself, have been too much afraid of this coercion. What if this once seemed to be thick wall is merely a painting painted on a piece of paper? I admit I haven’t been courageous enough to try to break this wall, but these two rallies--one took place on April 10 in Koenji, the other on May 7 in Shibuya--prove that I have been wrong. People from all walks of life were getting together and expressing their anger in their own ways. And they were quite spontaneous and bottom-up. There were some organizers, such as Shiroto No Ran, which is seeking for an alternative way of life and community, but they were not really organizing. It wasn’t led by neither unions nor NPOs. By the way, I respect those NPOs, such as the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center and No Nuke Plaza Tokyo, which have long been helping nuclear power plant workers and fought against construction of plants. They know how to use legal means to fight against nuclear power plants and many scientific data that prove the danger of nuclear power plants. But, spontaneous popular movements are necessary in order to change the system.

This battle will continue. I’ve heard that a film school tells their students not to assign their work about ongoing anti-nuke rallies, because such a work is, the school says, “political.” I must say, “It’s politics, stupid!” That film school may want students just to make imitations of Hayao Miyazaki without poison. Universities and schools don’t want their students to be politically awakened.

Japanese are those who endure the unendurable, we are told. The authorities like this narrative. The American media also like this. After the earthquake hit, many Americans were busy discussing why no looting were taking place in the disaster area. They were apparently and tacitly comparing Japanese with Haitians or black people. They were stereotyping Japanese, Haitians, and black people, all together. I don’t buy that. It’s time to question this self-image. Japanese people have long been protesting since the medieval times. This self-image is a by-product of the authorities’ effort to establish “harmonious” capitalism with Asian or Japanese values.

At least people are now examining the history of nuclear power plants. Many are rediscovering the fact there have been many protests in the past. Even there have been TV programs that report how a Japanese media tyrant--a Rupert Murdoch kind of figure--cooperated with America and the Japanese government to make this nuclear policy possible, how the IAEA tried to downplay the misery of the Chernobyl Accident, how some scientists were fighting against the nuclear policy, and how horrible the 1999 critically accident at Tokai nuclear fuel plant was.

By the way, two workers were killed by this criticality accident. They were exposed to too much radiation, and there was no hope to help them. But the authorities brought them into the best equipped hospital and tried to prolong their death. One of them survived 83 days. Now many people know the graphic photos of this worker. The authorities tried to save the workers’ lives in order just to save the authorities' face.

Ironically many of those reports were made by NHK, and they are now circulating around the Internet. NHK is a complicated thing. It sometimes makes excellent in-depth reports, but the way it deals with the current problem like the Fukushima accident is bureaucratic. I believe it will make a good program about this accident ten years later. On the other hand, NHK World is completely bureaucratic. There is no in-depth reports, no analysis, no debates. Even it doesn’t try to contextualize things.

Additionally, I want to point out this: now in Japan it’s getting popular to say that the world is criticizing Japan for its management of the accident, but I don’t subscribe to this view. For example, when Tokyo Electric Power Company intentionally discharged the “low level” contaminated water into the sea in order to make room for extremely high level contaminated water leaking from those broken reactors, some Japanese independent journalists said that the world was calling it a state nuclear terrorism. This was not true. I checked over, and neither CNN nor BBC said such a thing. The world media are also more or less downplaying this nuclear issue. They say calling this accident “level 7” is an overestimation and nothing can compare to the Chernobyl Accident. Though they sensationalized the Fukushima accident for a couple of weeks, they didn’t touch the essential problems revolving around nuclear power plants. BBC put someone’s opinion that said low-level radiation is not so dangerous so we can live with it. Many were talking rather about how to live with risks than about the danger of nuclear power plants. When Germans started rallying against nuclear power plants, they rather said those Germans were overreacting. The Guardian, which is very enthusiastic about reducing greenhouse gas, is rather muted about this issue. They cover protests in Japan only when the participants were few. The nuclear industry consists of those multi-national corporations, and also the International Atomic Energy Agency is part of it. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director of the IAEA, and now seemingly the Western favourite Egyptian presidential candidate, tried to downplay the affect of the Chernobyl Accident. There are many people in the world who don’t want Japan to abandon its nuclear power plants. Those Japanese nuclear power plant manufacturers such as Hitachi, Toshiba, and Mitsubishi are deeply connected to General Electric, Westinghouse, and Areva, respectively. The nuclear issue is about the international politics. I hope, for example, the residents in Sellafield and the residents in Rokkasho will work together to abolish their reprocessing plants. Or, the people in the industrialized countries and the people in the developing countries should work together. Now those multi-national corporations are exporting the plants, since it has been becoming more difficult to build them in their own countries.

The nuclear problem is about commons. Whose lands and waters are we polluting? We should share things, lands, waters, natural resources, and intellectual properties. And also, we should share risks as well. This Tohoku Earthquake is a tragedy. But, we should remember an earthquake can kill ten times higher number of people in South Asia and Haiti. Poor people die first.

Two months later the earthquake, the Japanese prime minister finally announced the government would rewrite its energy policy from scratch, and that’s good news. At least about the energy policy, I’m cautiously optimistic. But, we should go beyond a state's energy policy.

I cannot tell how Japanese people will become from now on. This accident has eventually awakened many people. The worst case scenario for me is that what Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism will take over Japan. The best case scenario--this is difficult to tell. Let me put it this way. Now, Hiroaki Koide, a senior reactor engineering specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University, who has long been against the government’s nuclear power policy, is much admired. He has been studying nuclear power in order to abolish it, he says. Why is this possible for him? It is because he believes that duty of scientists, especially of university, is not to make something immediately useful for companies, but to examine fundamental things and meanings of things, and to discuss things freely, not being restricted by the demands of the times. It’s rather company researchers’ job to study practical things. What Koide tells us is about what Immanuel Kant calls public use of reason. He teaches us what a philosopher is supposed to do. He says he learnt this during the 1968 students’ revolt when he was a student. We are apparently learning the best part of the 1968 now. I hope grandchildren of the best part of the 1968 will take over this country.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

officially the third death of the Fukushima workers

We don't know how the workers in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is working. This is official third death of the workers. TEPCO reportedly says this one was not caused by radiation exposure, but no one fully believes it. Al Jazeera reports this.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the thing is...

The thing is, during the May 7 Shibuya No Nukes Rally, the police arrested 4. 2 were freed the same day, but the other 2 are still detained. A freed person reportedly says that he or she had to write an apology "I was wrong to participate in the rally." So I estimate those still detained are refusing to make such a statement (of course!). The rally was very very peaceful. The Japanese laws are very problematic, because if you're seen intervening what cops are doing by the same cops, you could be arrested. You even don't have to throw stones. I've heard some people just taking photos of the rally were intimidated by the police and thugs. It appears to be the police is detaining those just to intimidate the demonstrators. The prosecutor can detain those arrested for 23 days, and lawyers are not allowed to attend interrogation. Now some people are trying to free those detained. If you're out of Japan, and want to help them or report about this problem, you can contact with kyuenkai ("association of those who try to help the detained"):

Or, you can send email or call any embassy of Japan in your country.

More than 15,000 marched that time, but the police says 4,000 did. During the marching, they were trying hard to separate the protesters from the public. Disgusting.

footage of 5.7 action

I wonder why this popular footage (including an arrest scene, 23,013 views so far) doesn't appear on top list when I type the exact title...

Friday, May 6, 2011

those broken kettles....

I am an I-don't-want-to-belong-to-any-club-that-will-accept-people-like-me-for-a-member sort of person. But I'll show up at tomorrow's rally in Shibuya (May 7, 14:00 JST). Shiroto no ran, who organized the historic April 10, Koenji action, leads this rally. This time I don’t embed Ustream channels here. You can see it on the organizer’s website, or journalist Yasumi Iwakami’s channels. 90 percent of life is just showing up. Anyway I’ll be among the crowd.

I even agree with what Slavoj Žižek last year said about the UK students’ actions:”You have to break some windows in order for your voice to be heard. “ But, I’m cautiously optimistic at least about the government’s nuclear policy. Not that I trust the government, but, as far as I know, the nuclear energy policy is bankrupt, there’s no other way than to change the course. I even guess the government is thinking of some sort of soft landing. If you just want to change the government’s energy policy, probably you don’t have to break windows. Having said that, nonetheless rallying is necessary at this moment. When Franklin Roosevelt became president, organizers and activists visited him and talked about many social problems. The president said he understood them and asked them to let him do it. They did. They rallied everywhere. So, let the government do it.

But, in order to change the “system, “ we probably have to be more courageous. I’m not courageous at all (That’s one of the reasons I’m writing in English), and I know many courageous people out there. At this moment I’m thinking what I can do about this.

Actually those who are opposed to nuclear power plant are not necessarily leftists. Now even a famous entrepreneur and some conservative lawmakers are arguing the era of nuclear power plant is over. Even a local bank is against it. I’ve even heard that some rightwing activists were among the April 10 Koenji rally. In a way, you can fight against nuclear power plant either politically or a-politically. It’s about how to boil water.

And we are watching those broken kettles in Fukushima. How the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the Nuclear Energy Commision, and the mainstream media explain what is going on at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and how they deal with it remind me of, again, Slavoj Žižek's critic of the Iraq War. He compared the way the US and the allies disavowed the fact that there were no WMD, so attacking Iraq was not justifiable, to an old joke Freud cited to explain how dream creates narratives that negate one truth: the fact that you have returned to a friend a broken kettle. You may say like this: 1. I never borrowed a kettle from you; 2. I have returned it unbroken; 3. the kettle was already broken when I got it from you.

They say, “The nuclear power plants are absolutely safe,” “We haven’t said they are absolutely safe,” “Something like an explosion happened, but the reactor is intact,” “It’s not leaking,” “It looks like leaking,” “You don’t have to evacuate,” “You can evacuate if you want,” “Radioactive materials are detected, but it’s not immediate danger,” “We know there is a study about the long term effects, but we’ll talk about it later,” “It’s contaminated, but you can live with it!” and so on.

I think many are angry rather at this inconsistency. No wonder Hiroaki Koide, a senior reactor engineering specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University, who has consistently been against nuclear power plant, is now a superstar. He advices us that it is us who to choose whether to eat contaminated vegetables, but we should know they are contaminated.

This is new to majority of Japanese people, I guess. And it’s sometimes difficult to practice, because there is some coercion: “You can evacuate if you want (but you will be treated as a traitor).” Political scientist Chigaya Kinoshita explains this here.

There are some ways of living without feeling such a coercion in Japan. “Don’t watch stupid TV shows” may be one of them. I think I know what Kinoshita calls “the ugliest appearance of inward feelings” of Japanese people, and I’m consciously distancing from it. It’s a bit misanthropic attitude. What I’ve known since the earthquake so far is, --because I could be not checking what the other Japanese people are saying online, if there weren’t the earthquake-- there are many misanthropists out there. And that’s a good news for me.