Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 13

First and foremost, power has been restored to all 6 reactors in Fukushima. It still goes to see if the pumps aren't damaged and still function, but this is a big step in getting through this disaster.

Well, I'm back in Kanagawa now. I took the Shinkansen home last night after hanging out in Osaka for another day. I made sure to stop by the Umeda Sky Building before I came home too. This building northeast of Osaka station is a unique twin tower where the top is connected and the top 2 floors are an observation deck, with the roof being an open air observation deck. At night there are florescent pebbles and such in the floor on the roof, so they create this really cool space field atmosphere at night. In fact, the inner wall on the observation floor has these panels with brief explanations on tall buildings through the ages, eventually expanding into space. It's a very cool place I visited 3 years ago and couldn't resist going back.

Anyways, Osaka and central Japan really aren't feeling much effect from the disaster. When I got back to Japan, I found convenience stores still low on stock, although I hear supply isn't the issue, but rather demand from people stock piling. Worse than that though, was the trains still being delayed and running at a reduced, limited schedule. The line for the Nanbu line backed up all the way from the platform to the ticket gate. Plus, the Odakyu line cut all the lights and heat inside the train, so it really sets this eerie and chilly mood. I hear more power plants were affected by the earthquake than they thought, so rumor has it this might even continue till winter. I really hope they can do something quickly, otherwise I might have to purchase a UPS to keep my internet running at home least.

There have been a lot of opinions I've heard about what to do with the current energy problem, but coincidentally I just saw a huge presentation on the difficulties with meeting current energy demands. I'll try and sum it up here as best I remember.

First the different types of power used in Japan (and throughout the world)...

Coal: Dirty, cheap
Nuclear: Clean, cheap, radiation risk, recyclable fuel
Hydro: Clean, expensive
Wind: Clean, expensive

The reason Nuclear power is used so much despite the risk of radiation is because it is clean (less emissions than hydro I believe), efficient and cheap (good for high population density), and to top it off, the fuel can be recycled. Modern nuclear plants are extremely safe, and in fact the reactor in Fukushima isn't using a newer method of cooling using convection which doesn't rely on pumps. If it did, we probably wouldn't be facing many of the issues we are now.

So that's the reason Nuclear power is widely used. Now how can we quickly resolve the current power shortage? One idea is to channel power in from Tohoku (NE Japan), but they're devastated from the earthquake and tsunami already. We could go even farther and get some from Hokkaido, but there's a physical limit the power can reach, allowing only 60KW to make it our way. Nearby central Japan has been barely effected by this disaster, but their power alternates at 50Hz, whereas Eastern Japan's power is 60Hz. This is because electricity in Eastern Japan had its origins from Germany, whereas Western Japanese electricity came from American. This is a problem left over from the 1800's, and rather frustrating. Power can be converted, but the cost of building a conversion station is about the same as a new power plant. There are actually 3 in existence already, but they max out at 100KW since they're not exactly efficient either.

To long, didn't read? We can't channel power from the surrounding area because of physical limits, and it would be too expensive to increase our ability to do so. Which means we have to repair/build more power stations as quickly as possible (with repair probably being the fastest solution). I sure hope they can do something about it soon.

The strong earthquakes and aftershocks are still continuing at the rate of one a day. I was told a few hit while I was out of the area, and sure enough I've already felt a couple since coming back yesterday. I know I've mentioned it before, but my body really is out of whack from this whole experience. I can 'feel' it shaking by just thinking about it. It kind of reminds me of the sensation you get from riding a boat, except all the time, and I'm imagining it. Crazy.

Regardless, Japan is really stepping up to the occasion, determined to push through this horrible disaster. The national high school baseball tournament (I think) was not canceled after all, but rather they're playing exactly because we're facing this disaster. People are doing everything they can to get back to normal. It will take time, but I'm sure we'll get through it. I'm crossing my fingers we don't have an excruciatingly hot summer this year again though, cause I was suffering enough even with the AC.

Well I'll continue to update this blog as events unfold, but at less frequent rate. So far the situation seems to have calmed more and hopefully will be under control soon. I should really focus on getting my life and my job back to normal as well.


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