The Insecurity of Confronting the Antiquated Nuclear Power System
Towards the Next Generation of Energy in “Atmospheric-Pressure Plasma”
Bukkyo (Buddhist) Times
June 16, 2011
Tatsuhiko Yajima is a Professor of the Department of Life Science and Green Chemistry at the Saitama Institute of Technology, just north of Tokyo. Born in 1952, he specializes in environmental chemistry, plasma chemistry, and electrical chemistry. He is also participating in the planning of The Science and Buddhist Thought Research Center affiliated with the Saitama Institute of Technology’s Institute of Advanced Science.
In order to realize a low carbon society which does not produce carbon dioxide emissions, the greater part of Japan’s energy policy has over compensated towards nuclear energy. I would go so far as to say that until the Tohoku disaster this low carbon society model was endorsing nuclear power. There has also been a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 25% by the year 2020 through the potential of increasing nuclear power. However, this policy was grounded in the myth of nuclear safety and is now being called entirely into question and reconsideration since the recent disaster.
Nuclear power has been considered an important energy source on the basis that it doesn’t emit carbon dioxide, and this fact led it to become 40% of Japan’s total energy supply. Other substitute or alternative energies such as thermal, water, solar, geo-thermal, wind, and wave energy don’t even make up 10%. If nuclear energy were abolished in one shot, it is clear that domestic production activities could not be sustained and the economy would fall into disorder.
Therefore, we will have to face the realistic policy maintaining nuclear power while the development of new forms of energy proceeds during this momentary suspension of nuclear power facilities. Germany has already decided to abolish all nuclear energy by the year 2022, and there is the sudden, rapid advance of innovative techniques for natural energy, beginning with wind power. To the extent that Japan does not change course away from nuclear power, the development of new technologies will not proceed.
The re-thinking about the present nuclear crisis is that in reality nuclear power involves techniques with an extremely high cost level. If we include the costs of compensating the victims of the nuclear disaster, there is absolutely no basis for making profit. The facilities needed to create giant amounts of energy tend to cause serious accidents and therefore need to be absolutely safe. To make 100% sure that such accidents don’t happen requires an enormous cost.
The phrase “beyond expectation” has been repeatedly used in fallacious arguments by authorities to evade taking responsibility for the incident. There is no guarantee that a disaster beyond our estimations will absolutely not happen. It’s not possible to fully estimate the future probability within the past framework. This is not an exaggeration. If we speak in terms of a disaster brought on by the power of nature, we might have the slightest possibility of estimating how to overcome it. The problem is that this incident was man made (through negligence and corruption) so there were absolutely not estimations made for such a scenario and none of the many ideas for a course of action to get out of the worst situation in a hypothetical model could apply. In this situation today, there still lingers into the future the insecurity of how to cope with these antiquated nuclear facilities and equipment.
Public opinion for eradicating nuclear power has increased. Further, many companies have created their own stable sources of energy by installing their own in house electricity generation. There are many cases of the installation of liquefied natural gas (methane). Since methane is a chemical compound from one carbon it can generate a large amount of heat and the emission of carbon dioxide from one unit of generated heat is half that of coal and 20% less than gasoline.
When nuclear power first became a main source of electrical energy a big problem that emerged was the uneven distribution of it in rural regions. It has been a system of sending electricity to urban areas while generating it in the rural areas. From now on, there is the need for small and medium scale electrical resource facilities in each region. In this way, if one electrical source breaks down, then electricity can still be supplied without stoppages or planned blackouts or stoppages. By converting to a decentralized supply system, electricity can be generated and consumed locally. In this case, citizen’s business initiatives can get involved in electrical enterprises, while establishing competitive business principles.
If this were done on a massive national scale, like nuclear power, it would not be possible to develop electrical generating techniques which are high in safety. However, alternative energy resources such as water and wind presently offer insufficient amounts of electricity. At the same time, in order to burn fossil fuels, thermal power and large scale electrical generation emit high levels of carbon dioxide. In order to deal with this issue, thermal electrical generation needs to be cut in half in order to have techniques to develop a high number installations with high safety.
I myself am promoting research in “Eco Process Chemistry” in which we can live in co-existence with the environment; for example, a system for the practical application of energy resources that uses “Atmospheric-pressure plasma”. The sequence of discharging energy from plasma can be done at a relatively low cost. Lightening and aurora are examples of the plasma phenomena in the natural world. Using the medium of carbon-felt, it is easy to generate Atmospheric-pressurized plasma. If you put plastic into this plasma device to make gas, the gas can be used as a new chemical material. Even with the enthusiastic advance towards zero emission renewable resources, about 50% of the 10 million tons of annual disposable plastic (16% is recycled and the rest put in land fills) is still disposed of by incineration. Further, there is the problem of the heat needed for this process which emits carbon dioxide and is a waste of resources. This problem, however, could be eradicated in one shot.
“Atmospheric-pressure plasma” is one idea for recovering electrical resources. Japan is an ocean nation. If we efficiently used the resources contained in the ocean, Japan would be a nation of resources (instead of being know as a resource poor nation). In the principle of electrical generation, a system of heating water into steam revolves a moving turbine. In nuclear energy and thermal energy, the source of heat is different but the mechanism is the same. There is a material which can be used again and again for this source of heat which is contained in sea water. It can be extracted by the technique of “Atmospheric-pressure plasma”.
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there has begun around the world the all out development of next generation energy. I myself am thinking to establish a new technique which incorporates the concept of “interbeing” (kyosei).
Translated by Jonathan Watts