Japan and the Fate of Nuclear Power

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. 10 September 2013

Reviewer: Kasper Koh Chiak Chiang

Right from the get go in this short article, the author suggests that nuclear power is the solution towards the world’s carbon dioxide problem caused by the world’s ever increasing energy demands. However, the author had this to add: “If only humans had a competent civilization.” The rest of the article then goes on to criticize the Japanese government as well as the world in general’s, overreaction to the risks and hazards of using nuclear power by substantiating his claim with data from a “considerable body of research” as well as quoting famous Oxford University physicist Wade Allison on the acceptable limits of radiation exposure.

Obviously a big advocate of nuclear energy, the author ends the article  by stating his frustration with the Japanese and USA governments, “two of the most capable governments in the world”‘s inability to manage the use of nuclear power.

Being a physicist myself, I could see the angle from where the author was coming from and tended to side with his arguments. I believe that should the world master the key to harnessing nuclear power to its fullest, nuclear energy IS the solution towards green energy, maximum power gained with minimal waste byproducts.

Though I felt that there was perhaps not enough data and background information set by the author to better the inform the reader, I do understand that this was a just a short commentary news article and not a textbook or paper published by a researcher. Also, with all the focus on nuclear energy being the solution to problems arising from current energy production means, perhaps the author and us (in the royal sense) are focusing too much on the means of production. We could look at ourselves from time to time instead of blaming or trying to improve the tool in our hand. If we become “greener” ourselves by reducing energy demand in the first place, why would there be a need to keep improving energy production means then?

“Osaka ‘ecological village’ could be harbinger of new lifestyle in Japan”

I read a Xinhua news article titled “Osaka ‘ecological village’ could be harbinger of new lifestyle in Japan”, published on July 30, 2013. It gave an overview of a new neighborhood that recently opened within Sakai City, Osaka prefecture. The SMA-ECO (smart and ecological) Harumi-dai Town is claimed to be Japan’s first net zero-energy neighborhood. Daiwa House Industry Company, in collaboration with Sakai City, built this neighborhood with a “new philosophy of modern living” in mind, one that utilizes renewable resources “to enjoy the extra bonus of the power generated by one’s own home” (Ebihara). Solar panels and time data software were installed on all homes; for the first month or so, a self-sufficiency energy rate of 110% was achieved across the community. Harumi-dai has communal electric cars, which are linked to the solar power system. The district also has a number of eco-friendly policies that mitigate disaster impact and maintains greenery.

From word choice, the article definitely portrays Japan [or at least Sakai City and Daiwa] in a positive light. For example, the author talks about a “new era in an ‘ecological’ living concept”. Harumi-dai town, the author proposes, may “be an example of the next generation’s lifestyle in Japan, which is now seeking the best ways to use renewable sources for further growth” [my italics]. Although most of the article is dedicated to description of the neighborhood features, it comes back to words like “ecological life”, “environmentally friendly”, and “next generation’s lifestyle” without really explaining their connotations. I can reasonably assume that ‘ecological’ is something desirable and ‘good’, and that Harumi-dai is directing the Japanese towards a clean future.

I think this article is ‘green’ because it jumps on the ‘green’ discourse bandwagon, using terms like ‘ecological’ and ‘net zero energy’. Most people have a sense that ‘green’ is right, but they do not really know what ‘green’ is. Going green is not just about transportation, parks, or new business ventures, but it has become a lifestyle in itself, as this article clearly informs us.


Ebihara, Atsushi. “Osaka ‘ecological village’ could be harbinger of new lifestyle in Japan”. Xinhua News. 30 July, 2013. Xinhuanet. Web. 20 September, 2013.





Japan to go non-nuclear for at least six months- Review


The Straits Times. Tuesday, 3 September, 2013.”Japan to go non‐nuclear for at least half a year”

This article talks about the present nuclear situation in Japan. After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, there has been a huge debate on the use of nuclear power in the country. A few of Japan’s nuclear reactors which have been closed for maintenance have not been restarted largely as a result of public backlash after the Fukushima disaster. The remaining two reactors are also due for maintenance and it is likely that the whole country will go non-nuclear for at least half a year. Recent reports on the leakage of radioactive water from storage tanks at Fukushima which has even drained into the sea are likely to dampen public’s enthusiasm for nuclear energy. As such, Japan is turning back to conventional energy sources such as thermal power plants to make up for the loss.

This switch back to the use of thermal energy seems to be the ‘green’ way forward for Japan. Reports in other magazines such as Niponica also show how Japan is trying to revitalize its disaster-stricken towns through the tapping of other forms of renewable energy. Here one may need to ask the question, what is considered ‘green’? Is nuclear energy considered ‘green’ still? Or is it no longer so due to the radiation threats that it is now posing to the people in the country? It seems that there is no fixed definition for ‘green’ energy, and we probably need to rethink before we attached a ‘green’ label to an energy source in the future.

Japan’s Eco-friendly Demolition Scheme

Japan’s Quiet Skyscraper-Demolition Technique Generates Energy
by Liat Clark, 15 January 2013

The article introduces a new Japanese eco-friendly demolition scheme that was developed by Japanese company Taisei Corporation. This new technology, christened as Taisei Ecological Reproduction System (TECOREP), took a year and a half to be developed. This technique has been used to demolish the 140-metre tall Grand Prince Hotel in Akasaka, which cannot be disassembled by cranes as the latter cannot reach buildings taller than 100 metres.

The building is disassembled two floors at a time from the inside, with hydraulic jacks propping up the top of the floor. After the inside is deconstructed, the jacks are lowered to let the roof and scaffolding move down.

This technique is touted as eco-friendly for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, explosives are not used in the demolition process unlike in traditional methods and the materials are dismantled bit by bit. Not only is there less debris and dust produced, the materials can also be recycled. Also, noise pollution is reduced by 17-23 decibels with the soundproofing of the building. It is also said that carbon emissions are reduced by 85 percent. Most importantly, electricity is generated from the motion of a crane which transports the dismantled components from the top to the ground floor. This electricity is then used to power lighting and other machines used in the demolition process.

The article blatantly states that previous demolition methods are “far from green”, hinting that Japan (other countries included) may not have been as kind to the environment. Yet, it portrays Japan as a eco-friendly nation committed to creating environmentally-friendly technologies, as it mentions the advent of other similar deconstruction schemes and acknowledges the benefits (to the environment) such technologies bring about.

I personally feel that it is near impossible to leave the environment in its pristine condition in the pursuit of economic development. As such, ‘green’ to me is really about living in harmony with the environment – striking a balance between environmental conservation and economic development, or in other words, sustainable development.  Taisei Corporation seems to be phenomenal at this, as it reduces landfill waste, utilizes clean energy, conserves natural resources and reduces carbon footprint, all while pursuing economic development.

While this newly invented technology seems to be highly viable with few drawbacks, I have some reservations. With the possibly higher costs and much longer time taken, how many companies will be receptive to such a demolition scheme? As it takes about 10 days to demolish 2 floors, the demolition process is definitely longer than traditional demolition methods. If companies do not utilize this eco-friendly demolition scheme, then it may seem like a futile venture.


Clark, Liat. “Japan’s Quiet Skyscraper-Demolition Technique Generates Energy”. Wired. 15 January 2013. Available at: http://www.wired.com/design/2013/01/japan-building-demolition/ [Accessed 2 September 2013]

Mount Fuji, So Popular It Hurts

By Belson, Ken.  13 Aug 2013

Review by Pearl:

As the title suggests, the popularity of Mount Fuji might, or rather, is hurting the environment around Mount Fuji. Here, Belson informs us about the Japanese government’s decision to add Mount Fuji into the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, which because of overcrowding, might aggravate the problem of preserving the nature of Mount Fuji already at hand. As he described it, “Illegally dumped garbage fills the forests. Traffic chokes surrounding roads and paths to the peak.” Even “big events like the jazz festival at Kawaguchiko [that] draw thousands of fans” to the area was contributing to the resultant degradation of the mountain as a cultural heritage site.

Alluding to his personal experience to Mount Fuji, Belson puts across the overcrowding issue fully. The resonance of Mount Fuji was reduced to tourists’ snapping away of a picturesque view of Mount Fuji. The sound of nature surrounding Mount Fuji was also polluted by the congested traffic below. It seems that the preservation of Mount Fuji runs incompatible with human activities near and about it. Thus, I believe Belson’s idea of “green” and “preserving the nature of Mount Fuji” is protecting the natural state of the mountain itself, without any or limited human interference.

Perhaps so, the issue of reconciling the protection of the natural environment with tourism and human activities, that is undesirable to the area, is so contentious. It is notable that restricting access to nature like Mount Fuji is impossible, especially in the present world of globalization. The Japanese government might need tighter control with regards to regulating the number of visitors per year, but it is highly unlikely they’ll stop tourism altogether in the name of “preserving the nature”.

To me then, “being green” represents the relationship between nature and human. One is not subordinate to another, for one’s action will ultimately prompt a response from the other. Human activities are not necessarily detrimental to the environment, but at the same time too much of it would result nature “crying out” through its degradation. Therefore, we humans have a responsibility to ensure the balance in this relationship.

Belson, Ken “Mount Fuji, So Popular It Hurts” [The New York Time 13 Aug 2013.] accessed on 3 Sep 2013. http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/travel/mount-fuji-so-popular-it-hurts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

additional article read: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/22/national/volunteers-work-to-clean-up-reforest-kyotos-poets-mount/#.UiQH8LxVsap