Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Power issues

On 16 July 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) posted on its Englishwebsite a video clip taken by Japanese robot Quince showing inside of the No.2 reactor building of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Very Kool.

Switching to thermal power generation can cost ¥400,000,000,000 (Approximately$50.5billion)[Karyoku Daitai de Syotoku Ryusyutu 4-Chyo-Yen mo], 火力代替で所得流出4兆円も) by Tatsuo Kobayasi (小林辰男), Japan Center for Economic Research, July 15, 2011.
                    Japan would face a serious electricity shortage if all its 54 nuclear reactors stopped operating, since the country would be unable to bridge the gap with just fossil fuel power generation. If all the power plant shuts down, GDP would decrease 1.4% in 2011 and 2.2% by 2012, as Kobayashi forecasted. By 2020, the capacity of Nuclear Power generation will be half of what it is in 2011.

Lessons learned

LESSONS LEARNED BY THE NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY IN THE AFTERMATH OF JAPAN'S MARCH 11 FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER. 7/18, 12:30pm, Washington DC. Sponsor: National Press Club. Speaker: Gregory Jaczko, chairman of Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Japan Nuclear Accident-NRC Actions.

BRIEFING ON THE TASK FORCE REVIEW OF NRC PROCESSES AND REGULATIONS FOLLOWING THE EVENTS IN JAPAN To provide the Commission a summary of the task force’s review and recommendations, if any, for changes to NRC processes and regulations. Rockville, MD. 7/19, 9:30am. Search link for video of meeting.

HARNESSING NATURAL RESOURCE FOR PEACE BUILDING: LESSONS FROM U.S. AND JAPANESE ASSISTANCE. 7/20, 8:30am-5:00pm, lunch, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Geoff Dabelko, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; John Cruden, Environmental Law Institute; Norio Yamamoto, Global Infrastructure Fund Research Foundation Japan; Carl Bruch, Environmental Law Institute; David Catarious, and Alison Lawlor Russell, Center for Naval Analyses; Mami Sato, University of Tokyo; Jon Unruh, McGill University; Ilona Coyle, Environmental Law Institute; Lisa Goldman & Sandra Nichols, Environmental Law Institute; Mikio Ishiwatari, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Vladislav Michalcik, American University Washington College of Law; Cynthia Brady, and Oliver Agoncillo, U.S. Agency for International Development; Mikiyasu Nakayama, University of Tokyo; Mikiko Sugiura, Columbia University; Haruka Satoh, University of Tokyo; Jennifer Wallace, University of Maryland; Ken Conca, American University; Alex Fischer, Columbia University; Nao Shimoyachi-Yuzawa, Japan Institute of International Affairs.

THE GREAT EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: LESSONS FOR JAPAN’S ENERGY POLICY, INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT, AND MEDIA COVERAGE. 7/21, 10:00am-Noon, Washington, DC. Sponsor: U.S.-Japan Research Institute. Speakers: Yoshiaki Abe, USJI Operating Adviser/University Professor, Waseda University; Mikiyasu Nakayama, Professor, Division of Environmental Studies, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo; Mikio Ishiwatari, Senior Advisor in disaster management and water resources management, JICA; Jennifer Sklarew, U.S.-Japan energy policy specialist; Mikiko Sugiura, Visiting Scholar of the Department of Civil Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University; Norio Yamamoto, Executive Vice President, Global Infrastructure Fund (GIF) Research Foundation Japan.

OPERATION TOMODACHI: SUPPORT, COMPASSION, COMMITMENT. 7/22, 1:30-2:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Japan-America Society of Washington DC. Speaker: Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

No guarantees for Japan after 2012: Will the Republicans bring anything new?

HUMZA AHMAD a former APP Research Assistant and current nonresident fellow and C.D. ALEXANDER EVANS, wrote an op-ed for The Japan Times, Friday, July 8, 2011 on what the Republicans presidential hopefuls might say about Japan. The result is a witty, amusing, and sometimes sad account of how little Japan will be noted in Republican foreign policy.

 NEW YORK — In recent years both the United States and Japan have seen leadership changes at the highest levels of government. In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama was elected U.S. president, followed in 2009 by the ascendance of the Democrat Party of Japan, ending the nearly unbroken postwar dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party.
After both changes of power, relationship managers on both sides of the Pacific scrambled to find out as much as they could about these new ruling parties and their new national leaders.

While a change of power is by no means assured, the 2012 U.S. presidential election holds the potential to bring a Republican back to the White House.

Although it is an open secret that the Japanese political elite have always been more comfortable with the pro-military, pro-free trade Republicans, a look at the current field of candidates leaves no guarantee that a Republican administration would strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Three of the candidates seem particularly negative. Michele Bachmann, a House member from Minnesota, called the Japanese health care system an example of "gangster government" in 2009 when she claimed that the threat of not receiving health care silenced open criticism of the system.

Ron Paul, a House member from Texas, is strongly in favor of free trade but he is strongly opposed to overseas U.S. military bases.

Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, voted for a bill in the Senate in 1995 that tried to limit sales of Japanese automobiles in the U.S. on purely protectionist grounds.

For Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and former Ambassador to China, China seems to be a more important focus for America's attention.

According to sources close to the campaign, Huntsman's pro-China stance and cultural affinity for China (he was a Mormon missionary there and speaks fluent Mandarin) might translate to a negative perception of Japan, in general, and the U.S. military's presence there in particular.

Three of the candidates do seem quite positive. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, has been in favor of a strong Japan-U.S. alliance, and traveled to Japan on a speaking tour in 2009.

Hanging on by a slender thread

President Barack Obama most likely will meet a fourth Japanese prime minister this September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. He originally was supposed to have hosted Prime Minister Naoto Kan for a state visit in Washington. I, however, expect that PM Naoto Kan will be out of office in August, if not earlier, and his party, the DPJ, will just have time enough to elect a new party president and thus prime minister before the September UNGA.

Faulted for alleged ineptness in handling the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster this spring, Kan, early this summer, promised to step down in order to avoid what could have been a fatal vote of no-confidence in the Lower House. Yet, he never said exactly when that would be. He has since sounded as if he is no rush to leave, angering the opposition camp and the many in his own party who want new leadership. The latest speculation is that he will step down sometimes in August after key legislation clears the extended session of the Diet.

Most Japanese have long ago given up on the Kan administration. Nothing that Kan has touched with his policy finger since coming into office a year ago has turned to gold. Instead, most of his agenda has ended up in the dustbin. With little to show in terms of domestic and foreign policy accomplishments, Kan’s once heady popularity has suffered accordingly.

Only weeks ago, his support rate in the polls was hovering in the low to mid-twenty percent range, but in the latest NHK poll, it plunged to 16 percent, a record low. Asahi’s poll was even worse, 15 percent, down from last month’s 22 percent. Kan’s predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, had a 17 percent support rate in the Asahi poll when he resigned. The vast majority of Japanese, the polls show, want Kan out by August. The Asahi’s poll registered this view as being held by 80 percent.

Kan’s recent reshuffling of his cabinet was rather meaningless – one new appointee, Reconstruction Minister Ryu Matsumoto, was forced to quit after a week when he bad-mouthed earthquake victims (he was hospitalized recently). One disgruntled Cabinet member, METI Minister Banri Kaieda, has hinted at quitting over energy policy differences with Kan. The Prime Minister’s unilateral, uncoordinated decisions have left his cabinet and party frustrated. No one seems to know what he will do next, and many suspect he is just stalling in order to prolong his political life. Despite the chorus in the DPJ calling for his resignation, Kan still keeps chugging along as if he single-handedly can get things done. Kan has increasingly isolated himself.