Saturday, September 21, 2013

Idio(syncra)tic Japan: Maglev Linear Bullet Train to the Rescue of Nuclear Power Plants?

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, which was the ruling party for most of the post-World War II period in Japan and promoted nuclear power plants as "national policy" and thus responsible for 54 nuclear reactors dotting the coasts of earthquake-prone Japan, is quite nonchalant about its culpability.

Au contraire, a gigantic, 9-trillion-yen (US$90 billion) project that will necessitate the operation of several nuclear power plants (or so the politicians claim) is getting a heavy, front-page coverage all of a sudden: Linear Shinkansen (Bullet Train) by JR Tokai that will operate on Maglev - super-conductive magnetic levitation.

Why would the Maglev bullet train help nuclear power plants? Because maglev Linear Shinkansen will require three to four times the electricity the current Shinkansen uses. There are already LDP politicians and local politicians along the proposed line (initial segment from Shinagawa to Nagoya, over 86% of it will be deep underground - 40 meters, or 130 feet) demanding the restart of nuclear power plants to secure the supply for the Linear Shinkansen which was originally scheduled to be operational in 2027.

Which nuclear plants? Hamaoka NPP (Chubu Electric) and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP (TEPCO) are geographically close.

Unlike JR East which has its own power stations, JR Tokai doesn't have any, and will have to buy extra electricity needed for Linear Shinkansen from power companies.

The hope now is that the first segment of the Linear Sinkansen line will be built "ahead of schedule" - a recurring theme under the Abe administration - to be in time for 2020 Olympic.

Just like the original Shinkansen was built and became operational on October 1, 1964 to be just in time for 1964 Olympic that started on October 10.

Linear Shinkansen has been in the planning for over 30 years, but Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) under the Kan administration ordered JR Tokai to go ahead and build the line in late May 2011, two months after the start of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

From my post on June 2, 2011:

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.

...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".

Compared to the amount of groundwater that they will have to deal with in building this tunnel under Japan Alps, the current groundwater situation in Fukushima I Nuke Plant (1,000 tonnes per day) is a child's play.

You can rest assured that the environmental impact study will be done and rubber-stamped quickly. And effect of electromagnetic fields on humans and animals? What effect? It's all for economic growth, you know, in a country with declining population that is aging fast (32% of population over 60, expected to be 41% in 2050).


Scott said...

I never understood the need for this and I'm glad you're just as skeptical as I. The maglev train is a huge drain on resources and will probably not get as much use as politicians hope it will. I can't believe the government is actually pushing along with this boneheaded idea. That money should be diverted back up to northern Japan and to improving existing, severely aged, infrastructure.

wren said...

All the companies that are praying for and counting on those trillions of yen had better hope that Elon Musk's hyperloop doesn't work as planned.

Apolline said...

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Anonymous said...

Abe is going to suck as much money out of Japan as he can, before he goes. After the Olympics, Japan will have the same down fall as Greece. And if it keeps going in this speed, it will be even before the Olympics.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to shove a Maglev Linear Bullet Train up Abe's ass. It might stop the constant flow of bullshit.

Anonymous said...

they need to sort out the problem of their 'grass-eating' (severely wimpy, refuse to marry) males and start reproducing... but what if the babies have two heads....
the Japanese have a genuine dilemma on their hands.
too bad it will affect the entire world..

Anonymous said...

Agreed... some time ago there were even saying it on tv that Abe policy can lead to great economic growth (but public works did not had that effect for 20 years) or to financial disaster.
Trains are derailing in Hokkaido and Abe wants to build a maglev line; it beats me. Tokyo highway is falling apart too...


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