After spewing radioactive materials all over the world, the Japanese government is set to zap the pristine central Japan with electromagnetic wave.
Japan's addiction to a huge, infrastructure business continues, despite the disaster at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. Now, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has given the approval to start building the line for the "Linear Shinkansen (bullet train)" in the middle of Japan, through the pristine mountainous region dubbed in Japan as "Japan Alps", so that people in a nation with dwindling population can go from Tokyo to Osaka in 1 hour, instead of 2.5 hours.
The project has been on the table for more than 30 years, but it was the Kan administration who has finally given a go-sign on May 27, formally "instructing" JR Tokai (the railroad operator in charge of the area that the Linear Shinkansen will run) to build the rail line.
Big infra disaster at Fukushima? Not a problem, they'll move on to a new big infra, and governors in the prefectures where the Linear Shinkansen line will go through are already pushing hard for the earliest possible start of the construction and jockeying for the stations in their own prefectures.
From Asahi Shinbun's "My Town" Yamanashi section (6/1/2011):
Now that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) instructed JR Tokai to construct the Linear Chuo [central] Shinkansen, the governors including Shomei Yokouchi [governor of Yamanashi Prefecture] in the prefectures along the Linear Chuo Shinkansen line met with the Democratic Party of Japan's officials in the national Diet on May 31, and handed their request for the earliest start of the construction of the rail line and for the local involvement in deciding where to place the stations.
ＪＲ東海が東京―名古屋間で２０２７年の開業を目指すリニア新幹線をめぐり、大畠章宏国交相が５月２７日、計画の妥当性を認め、建設に ゴーサインを出したことから、沿線知事の次の関心は、経済波及効果が期待できる早期着工や、ＪＲ側が近く候補地を示すとされている中間駅の建設に移ってい る。
JR Tokai aims to have the Tokyo-Nagoya segment operational in 2027. The MLIT officially approved the plan as appropriate on May 27 and signaled the start of the construction of the line. Now, the interest of the governors has shifted to the early start of the construction of the rail line that they consider a boon to their local economies and to the construction of the stations along the line. JR Tokai is about to indicate the candidate locations for the stations.
It will cost 35 billion yen [US$432 million] per above-ground station [underground station will cost much more], and JR Tokai is demanding it be paid by the local municipalities. The governors are against it, saying the cost should be borne by JR Tokai. The governors have power to approve or disapprove the local construction.横内知事は東京・霞が関の国交省で津川祥吾政務官と面会後、報道陣に「駅の費用負担をめぐり、地元とＪＲの間で意見の不一致がある」と改 めて強調。両者の調整が難航する場合に国にまとめてもらうよう、津川政務官に要請したことを明らかにした。要請に対し、津川政務官は「当然のことで決して 逃げるものではない」と応じたという。
Governor Yokouchi [of Yamanashi prefecture] met with a MLIT official [a DPJ politician], Shogo Tsugawa, and emphasized to the press afterwards that "there is a difference of opinions between us and JR regarding who will bear the cost for station construction." He said he had asked Tsugawa that the national government should step in if the negotiation with JR goes nowhere. According to the governor, Tsugawa responded that the national government would of course step in as necessary.
The nuke infra business at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant has so destroyed the environment and people's livelihood and will affect people's health, but it at least had an excuse of providing electricity that people "need".
This Linear Shinkansen business has the need of the industry and the national government, and the local government officials jockeying for the locations for the Linear Shinkansen stations. For the former two, it is going to be a showcase project to sell to the world. For the latter, just like nuke plants were (and continue to be), the Linear Shinkansen stations are a huge money maker.
What is at stake, other than a huge amount of money for the pols and bureaucrats and businesses closely connected to them? Just like the nuke plant up in Fukushima: potential environmental damage, and health of people.
The line will go through the Japan Alps by building the longest underground tunnel that Japan will have ever built. Not only it will be so counter to environmental protection, but the tunnel will have to go through one of the major tectonic lines in Japan, "Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic Line".
Some Japanese fear that the strong electromagnetic field (super-conductive magnetic levitation, or Maglev) that will be used to run the bullet train may cause health hazards not just to the passengers of the train but to residents living nearby, or even those who live far away. The passengers will be exposed to 200,000 milligauss on the floor of the train, 20,000 to 50,000 milligauss on their seats.
While there is no safety standard for the electromagnetic field, and experts' opinions vary. However, the level considered "safe"seems to be 1 to 3 milligauss. Some say 0.5 milligauss or lower.
And this super-conductive magnetic levitation force will run through major tectonic lines, deep underground (40 meters below ground).
Oh, did I mention also that the Linear Shinkansen needs 3 to 5 times more electricity than the regular Shinkansen? Actually, the Linear Shinkansen has been used as a good excuse to build more nuclear power plants in the past 30 years.
Privatize the gain, socialize the cost, whatever the cost. Nothing has changed. This Kan administration is insane for starting the Linear Shinkansen project at this juncture.
You can now safely ditch your image of Japan as living in harmony with nature.