Hello to our readers, as the tsuyu rainy season sets in, don’t forget your umbrellas as we’re looking at a full week of rain ahead … Below we bring you the news (excerpts, summaries, etc) on the local educational scene as well as from abroad. News updates on the Fukushima nuclear crisis and Tohoku disaster follow at the bottom …

By Aileen Kawagoe

The employment rate of new university graduates at the April 1 start of fiscal 2011 edged down 0.7 percentage point from the year before to match the record-low 91.1 percent recorded in 2000, the government said Tuesday.

The rate for high school graduates as of March 31 rose 1.6 points to 93.2 percent overall but dropped in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the hardest hit by the March 11 natural disaster and nuclear crisis. The percentage fell 3.3 points to 87.6 percent in Miyagi and 2.4 points to 93.1 percent in Fukushima.
Even among those who found jobs, 206 high school graduates and 139 university graduates had offers cancelled as of May 18, according to a survey by the labor and education ministries.Corporate sentiment on employment was hit by the disaster and the resulting power shortages that affected businesses in the last stage of the recruitment season, an official at the labor ministry said.

A record-high 33,000 university graduates are estimated to have failed to find a job while an estimated 337,000 got jobs. The rate for men lost 1 percentage point to 91.0 percent, while that for women was down 0.3 point to 91.2 percent.

About 170,000 high school graduates also entered companies, with the rate for males up 1 percentage point to 95.1 percent and that for females up 2.4 percentage points to 90.6 percent, the education ministry said.

The survey results are provisional, however, as the ministries failed to obtain data from six universities and colleges in quake-hit areas out of 112 selected from across the country, as well as from 10 schools in Iwate and Fukushima prefectures.

School communities shattered / Evacuation orders affect thousands of students, dozens of schools (May 24) Twenty-three primary and middle schools inside evacuation zones in Fukushima Prefecture have been unable to find alternative sites to relocate their teachers and students en masse, and have as a result been deemed “closed” by the prefectural board of education. The 14 primary school and nine middle school communities have been split into pieces, with their about 5,000 students now attending schools near the various evacuation centers where they are staying. The evacuation zones near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant included 54 primary and middle schools in total, with 31 of those schools able to shift the entirety of their operations to a new location. (Yomiuri)

52% of Japanese people polled say raising children easy in Japan (Kyodo, May 20) A government survey showed Thursday that 52.6 percent of Japanese people responding to a survey said it is easy for them to have and raise children in their home country, up 5 percentage points from the previous poll in 2005 but considerably lower than the United States and European countries. According to the five-nation survey by the Cabinet Office on a society with fewer children, the figure stood at 97.1 percent in Sweden, 75.5 percent in the United States, 72.0 percent in France, and 16.2 percent in South Korea. 

Many adults in Japan seem to have a complex about their English speaking ability. They, in turn, presumably find it incredible that a child who doesn’t look Japanese can speak the language with ease. Japanese children, too, learn from their parents that English is difficult and they enter their first English lesson with a negative attitude, under the illusion that they are about to embark upon something they will never be able to enjoy or master. (Japan Times, May 24)

Generational Diversity in the Japanese Workplace: Myths, Facts, and Opportunities (JapanInc.) Excerpts follow:

Today’s generation of Japanese workers are seen as passive, apathetic and not as ambitious as their counterparts from Japan’s so-called miracle economy. The youth’s tendency to shy away from adult commitments such as marriage, raising a family, childbearing and financial independence only compound such perception. Nowadays, young people are categorized either as “freeters,” or parasite singles who mostly rely on their parents for support—labels that may be overly exaggerated but admittedly capture the realities of today’s Japanese youth.

Humor has also eluded today’s generation of workers. Nikkan Gendai in a September 2010 report (citing a poll by research and PR company iShare) said 43 percent of workers in their 20s and 40s never engage in genuine laughter in the workplace. Moreover, a breakdown of age brackets shows that the tendency for laughter falls as workers get younger.

It could be because in truth there is really nothing to be happy about as far as the current state of economy is concerned. Unemployment, wage deflation and job market insecurity are all at record levels. In fact, it can be said that the attitude of today’s youth merely reflects the national mood. According to the Japan Productivity Center for Socioeconomic Development, people in their 30s account for six in ten reported cases of depression, stress, and work-related mental disabilities. It may sound strange at first why young people end up to be the global recession’s biggest losers. The law of supply and demand should tell us that companies ought to prefer younger, easily dispensable workers over older expensive workers. But with the uncertainties of the market, companies themselves are taking as little risk as possible and are being extra careful when it comes to hiring workers. Hence, they rarely even bother to look at the resume of new graduates.

Young people, in response, have become more conservative about employment due to concerns about future job security. Contrary to the perception the youths being workplace trendsetters, for instance, an April 2010 survey by the Japan Management Association showed that about half of newly hired workers prefer seniority-based companies to merit-based firms, an increase of 8.6 percentage points over the previous year’s survey. The survey also found that half of new workers want to remain with their current employers until the age of retirement, up 6.9 points from the 2009 figure and almost double the 2006 ratio of 27.2 percent. Today’s generation of workers, in other words, prefer the traditional seniority-based system, as their counterparts did two or three generations ago. The death of lifetime employment may have altered the career path of many Japanese workers but what is apparent is that the sentiments of the young are no different from the old when it comes to employment security.

Some argue the young prefer to engage in multiple unstable work schemes. But in reality, the uncertain labor market has made it more difficult to rely on, or even find, one full time job. According to the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, nine in ten young workers have second and third jobs to earn extra money. Extra income appears to be the main motivation for holding side jobs but some economists see this as a form of risk management especially for workers who fear losing their main jobs.

If it is any consolation, this phenomenon of an entire generation of youth being unable to find full time work is not a problem confined to Japan alone. The global slump has affected a range of young people from high school dropouts to college graduates, especially in the world’s most developed economies. In the U.S. alone, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds has reportedly risen to more than 18 percent in the last year. In fact, it is no longer uncommon to see fresh young lawyers and MBAs competing for the least likely of jobs with their less endowed counterparts.

To be fair, those from the older generation are probably just concerned about the young and whether they can actually manage to sustain the Japan that the next generation will inherit. As the economy tumbles up and down, there has also been a lot of age diversity in the work pool. In particular, people in Japan are retiring much later in life. Moreover, people are working years, if not decades past their age of retirement.

Fortunately, HR managers don’t have to see age diversity as anything bad. In fact, in many progressive and forward-looking organizations, they are looking at age difference as an advantage that can give an organization a competitive edge. Read more here

Foreign students targeted for tours (Japan Times, May 22)

The Japan Tourism Agency will send some 1,100 foreign students in Japan to tourist spots across the country starting in July to check out the facilities, including hotels and inns, and find new attractions as it tries to lure back tourists scared off by the March 11 catastrophes. The agency said Friday that it hopes the students will spread word online about the sites to ease concerns about the aftermath of the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami and the radiation-spewing nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture for people abroad looking to visit Japan.

Stag beetle from over 2,500 years ago found in nearly complete shape (Mainichi, May 25)

KASHIHARA (Kyodo) — A stag beetle from about 2,500 to 2,800 years ago was found preserved almost in full shape at the Akitsu archaeological digging site in Gose, Nara Prefecture, the prefecture-run Archaeological Institute of Kashihara said Tuesday.

Although parts of insects have been found at archaeological sites before, it is rare that one preserved almost completely has been discovered. The 6.3-centimeter-long male sawtooth stag beetle possesses the same physical characteristics as such beetles today.

“It’s an important discovery in reproducing the environment back then,” an official of the institute said. “We can also compare it with modern species through DNA and other analyses.”… The stag beetle will be exhibited at the archaeological institute’s museum in Kashihara from Wednesday.

We may need to start prepping those of our kids who have long train commutes – on what to do should they begin to feel ill on a train … Neck/forehead coolants, handheld fans, tiger balm may come in handy…

Long hot summer on track

Fears of unbearable heat this summer for train commuters in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area are mounting for two reasons: (1) Electric power shortages triggered by the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station may force East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), the major operator of commuter trains, to suspend the use of air conditioners; and (2) with the train cars now in use, windows can be opened only partially to let in fresh air even when the air conditioning is off.

Most JR East commuter trains were designed on the assumption that the inside car temperature would always be controlled by air conditioning. Few windows can be opened manually; in fact, the newer windows no longer have curtains and are fitted instead with glass panes to absorb heat rays.An expert in railway technologies has pointed out that designers of today’s commuter trains did not take into account the possibility of air-conditioning cuts to conserve electricity.

The shortcomings of this assumption became apparent March 23, 2005, when a power failure forced a train to halt between Omori and Kamata stations on the Keihin-Tohoku Line. With the air conditioning out and windows that could not be opened, temperatures inside kept going up. Many passengers fell ill and had to be taken to a hospital.


Elsewhere in the world, the reports on education:

College Conspiracy is the most comprehensive documentary ever produced about higher education in the U.S. The film exposes the facts and truth about America’s college education system …

‘College Conspiracy’ was produced over a six-month period by NIA’s team of expert Austrian economists with the help of thousands of NIA members who contributed their ideas and personal stories for the film. NIA believes the U.S. college education system is a scam that turns vulnerable young Americans into debt slaves for life.

The real unemployment rate in America is now 22% and 60% of college graduates who are lucky enough to find a job, are receiving low skilled jobs where a college degree isn’t even required. In fact, 70% of high school graduates who didn’t go to college, were able to get these very same jobs as the average college graduate. The main difference is, by the time Americans who went to college get their degree, those who went straight into the work force after high school will already have 4 to 6 years of valuable workplace experience. Instead of having $24,000 in debt, these experienced Americans will be working their way up to a higher paid position or a better job at a different company.

All across America, colleges are deceiving prospective students with misleading and often fraudulent tactics and statistics. The fact is, law schools are handing out 43,000 law degrees each year, when there are 15,000 less attorney and legal staff jobs in the U.S. than three years ago. Many law schools are advertising a 90% job placement rate within one year of graduating. However, weeks before job placement surveys are conducted, some law schools will hire unemployed graduates to work in their admissions department. They are let go as soon as these surveys are completed, but count as being part of the 90% employers.

A Different Path (May 24) From the “On My Mind” Blog is one parent’s viewpoint on the value of a college education.

The Global Search for Education: The New Chinese Education (May 24) Below excerpts from an interview with Professor Minxuan Zhang, Director-General, Center for International Education Studies, Ministry of Education, China, and National Project Manager, PISA:

What kind of education system will permit China to have the human skills to compete globally?

I do not think there is one answer to your question.  Different countries require different systems.  One kind of education system cannot cover all the people skills.  In nature, we have various kinds of trees and flowers.  In the same way, there are many kinds of education systems which will be workable for a particular culture, economic situation, and social history.    In China, we have several types of sub-systems.  For example, in Shanghai we have a system suitable for a metropolitan area.  I have worked in our rural areas, too.  We have systems that are more suitable for them.  Of course, in our overall educational system, there are common characteristics.

From my personal experience of working in China, an education system should pay attention to all the students.  As a nation, we cannot rely on a few elites.  All the people in a society need to feel that they are helping that society.  Government  must ensure all people have a good education.  This is very important to the Chinese people.  My experience in other countries, even in poor countries, is that you can find good schools, but only for elites

World Wisdom from China

Different kinds of education systems are needed for different cultures, economic situations, and social history, among countries and within countries.  Education systems should pay attention to all the students, not just the elites. A nation cannot just rely on its elites; all people in a society need to feel they are contributing.

The process of education is much more important than the end point testing.  Such testing implies that students have finished learning.   Educational excellence is about knowledge and skill, but it is also about the socialization of the individual; it is about cultivating students to have active learning interests for the rest of their lives; it is about strong cultural support for education.

‘A’ grade still eludes top Chinese varsities (Straits Times article, reposted on the cc22 blog)

Calls to raise China’ elite colleges into the ranks of the world’s top universities were made when its venerable Peking University, or Beida as it is known here celebrated its centennial in 1998. Chinese universities have made great strides and this article below examines the higher education situation in China…

1. Harvard University (US)
2. California Institute of Technology (US)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US)
4. Stanford University (US)
5. Princeton University (US)
6. University of Cambridge (Britain)
6. University of Oxford (Britain)
8. University of California, Berkeley (US)
9. Imperial College London (Britain)
10. Yale University (US)
21. University of Hong Kong (China, Special Administrative Region)
26. University of Tokyo (Japan)
34. National University of Singapore
37. Peking University (China)
49. University of Science and Technology (China)
58. Tsinghua University (China)
120. Nanjing University (China)
171. Sun Yat-sen University (China)
197. Zhejiang University (China)
Source: Times Higher Education; rankings derived from the assessment of: teaching – the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score); research – volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent); citations – research influence (worth 32.5 per cent); industry income – innovation (worth 2.5 per cent); international mix – staff and students (worth 5 per cent).
The lectures that students are buzzing about in China these days are not the ones they hear in their own universities, but those beamed all the way from Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and other top universities abroad.
Since last year, many Chinese students and professionals have been tuning in to free online lessons from the West’s top colleges to learn about everything from the psychology of happiness to Roman architecture.
‘The quality of the lectures is better, and the lecturers teach in a lively manner… They also emphasise interaction and real-life application more,’ said Ms Mei Fengsong, head of an education centre at Internet firm Sina.
While China’s elite universities are catching up, they still lag behind pace-setters in the West – and not just when it comes to the popularity of their lectures.
‘There is still a substantial gap between the best in China and the best in the US,’ noted Mr Phil Baty, deputy editor of Britain’s Times Higher Education, which produces a yearly ranking of universities across the world.
Last year, China’s best institution, Peking University, or Beida as it is known here, was ranked 37th and the runner-up, the University of Science and Technology, placed 49th in the Times’ table. Only four other Chinese universities – Tsinghua, Nanjing, Sun Yat-sen and Zhejiang – made the top 200. …
On a more positive note, China is producing more research papers and patents these days. In 2006, it overtook Britain and Japan to become the second top producer of research papers behind the US.
‘Considering where China was a decade ago, this is a very impressive achievement,’ said Professor Anthony Welch of the University of Sydney, an expert on higher education in China.
In recent years, many top Chinese universities have spared no expense in hiring foreign-trained academics. (End of excerpt, read the entire article here)

Students flock to free universities  Feb 9, 2011 Views and News from Norway Norwegian colleges and universities are reporting an increased application rate from foreign students, as Norway has become the only country in Europe to continue offering tuition-free higher education to all, regardless of country of origin

European student numbers soar at Scotland’s free universities Scottish ministers fear its universities have become ‘cheap option’ for EU students facing rising fees at home, although quirk of EU law means English students must pay (Guardian, Jan 13)

Frustrated [UK] graduates looking abroad for work(Reuters, May 17)

“Among 1,000 graduates surveyed, the poll suggests many are beginning to question the value of a degree, especially now tuition fees are about to rise threefold to 9,000 pounds a year. Given the choice of going to university again, eight percent would have chosen an apprenticeship instead and one in four said they would have gone straight into work. … “Not only has the cost of going to university risen, but UK employment options look bleak,” said Howard.” (End of excerpt)

On the local educational scene, there’s been highlighted concern over the lack of graduate school programmes in Japan, observers might want to take a look at how the U.S. graduate schools came to be a force to be reckoned with today.  From the Historical Background on the U.S. Model of Graduate School / U.S. Doctorates in the 20th Century Read the full 8 Mar NSF report here.
From this NSF report, you’ll find really interesting information on how the U.S. graduate schools came to be the force they are today. According to this article, the graduate school industry expanded as a result of, in part, an inferiority complex towards European institutions and in part to the Sputnik-spurred R&D expansion.

“…U.S. doctoral education was in disarray at the turn of the century. American students were still flocking to European universities for graduate study, and American universities were viewed with little respect by European universities.The problem was that, unlike in Europe, higher education in America was decentralized and largely unregulated; diploma mills proliferated, and even shaky institutions could call themselves “universities” and award Ph.D.s. Some institutions, for example, allowed Ph.D. candidates to pursue courses without showing up on campus and to take exams at home under supervision of a proctor. The lack of standards and consistency was hurting the reputations of the more demanding U.S. universities. … Thus was founded the Association of American Universities (AAU) (the article shows these universities to be:

Catholic University of America Stanford University
Clark University University of California-Berkeley
Columbia University University of Chicago
Cornell University University of Michigan
Harvard University University of Pennsylvania
Johns Hopkins University University of Wisconsin-Madison
Princeton University Yale University

Over the years the number of AAU members has grown, by invitation, from the 14 founders to 59 U.S. universities and 2 Canadian universitiesThe 14 universities that founded the AAU were the leading doctorate producers at that time and accounted for nearly 90 percent of all doctorates awarded in 1900. The number of doctorate-granting institutions increased steadily throughout the 20th century, from fewer than 50 institutions before 1920 to 392 in 1999.The greatest growth in doctoral programs at U.S. institutions of higher education was in the 1960s and 1970s, after the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik. That 1957 event triggered new national policies focused on increasing the number of research universities. The number of doctorate-granting institutions grew by 73 in the 1960s and by another 87 in the 1970s. The relatively high rate of growth in doctorate production during the century means that most of the 1.36 million doctorates awarded between 1900 and 1999 were conferred in the last few decades of the century. More than half of all doctorates were awarded between 1980 and 1999, and three-fourths were conferred between 1970 and 1999.  The government’s share of total academic R&D funding also declined and continued to do so to the end of the century, sliding from a high of 73 percent of all academic R&D funding in 1965–68 to about 58 percent in 1999.

During the 1970s the academic labor market in most fields became saturated, and there was concern about overproduction of Ph.D.s…. the Vietnam War (effective 1968) …resulted in a significant reduction in doctoral awards in the 1970s.By the late 1970s the number of doctorates awarded annually had declined to about 31,000. This number remained almost flat from 1978 to 1985.

With the defense buildup and gains in R&D spending of the 1980s, increases in doctoral awards resumed in all major fields except education. The number of doctorates conferred rose from 31,297 in 1985 to 42,683 in 1998, although the average rate of growth—about 2 percent per year—was much slower than the rate of growth during the first three-quarters of the century.

The relatively high rate of growth in doctorate production during the century means that most of the 1.36 million doctorates awarded between 1900 and 1999 were conferred in the last few decades of the century.

More than half of all doctorates were awarded between 1980 due in part to the presence of larger, public universities among the newer doctorate-granting institutions. In 1952 the number of public doctoral institutions surpassed the number of private doctoral institutions. One year later the number of doctorates produced by public institutions surpassed the number produced by private institutions. By the 1970s public universities accounted for about two-thirds of the doctorates conferred each year, a proportion that held steady to the end of the century.

Students flock to EU studies fair (Feb 23)

A truly worthy examination of the rationale for education is this video by Sir Ken Robinson (world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award) on Education Changing Paradigm and the current problems with the outdated education systems found worldwide today.

Taking origami to the next level (Straits Times, Apr 26)A NEW level of origami has unfolded here with the efforts of a Singaporean boy in this art of paper-folding. NUS High School student Cheng Herng Yi has created a computer program that can teach you how to manipulate a sheet of paper into different shapes

Another reason to breast-feed- better behavior?  (Reuters, retr. MSNBC, May 10)


Updates on the news on the Fukushima nuclear crisis and Tohoku disaster:

The two article links below give the clearest information so far on what has actually happened within the Fukushima reactors:

TEPCO describes 3 meltdowns / Report on Fukushima N-plant outlines downward spiral of events (May 25, DY)

Meltdown speed varied by reactor (May 25)

Related news:

Fukushima reactor had meltdown 3.5 hours after cooling system collapsed: U.S. researcher (Mainichi)

TEPCO says core meltdowns also occurred at No. 2, 3 reactors (Mainichi)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. admits what many experts had long suspected: The cores of reactors 2 and 3 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant likely melted down and dropped to the bottom of their pressure vessels, just as happened at unit 1.
Tepco admits two more meltdowns (May 24, Google News)

Temperature readings indicate melted cores are being cooled (Japan Times)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted Tuesday what many experts had long suspected: The cores of reactors 2 and 3 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant likely melted down and dropped to the bottom of their pressure vessels, just as happened at unit 1.

However, temperature readings taken in the two units, now ranging from about 100 to 110 degrees, suggest that most of the melted cores remain inside the pressure vessels and have been cooled by injected water.

“Although the simulation says that the melted cores would damage the pressure vessels if the water level was lower, we think the damage is limited considering the temperature data of the pressure vessels,” Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said at a news conference.

“Most of the melted cores appear to be at the bottom of the pressure vessels, and we don’t think there are any big holes” in the vessels, Matsumoto said.

However, the melted fuel may have damaged some parts of units 2 and 3, such as pipelines, he added.

Tepco’s latest simulation considered two scenarios. The first assumes the water level indicators have malfunctioned and that coolant water has not reached the original position of fuel rods, as was the case with reactor 1.

The second scenario assumes at least part of the rods are covered by water, as the gauges indicate.

In the first scenario, the exposed rods in reactor 3 would have melted and fallen to the bottom of the pressure vessel about 60 hours after the quake hit March 11, while the rods in 2 would have melted in about 101 hours, computer simulations showed.

If the water remained at the level where gauges now indicated it is, only a part of the fuel rods would have melted, Tepco said.

Experts weren’t surprised by Tepco’s announcement.

“We had already expected that the situation at the No. 2 and 3 reactors was similar to the No. 1 reactor,” said Kazuhiko Kudo, a professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University.

Tepco’s announcement “does not mean that the situation has gotten more serious. It just clearly confirmed what we had already anticipated.”

Kudo said factors including the shutdown of the cooling system at the plant and the series of explosions that occurred within a few days of the quake and tsunami showed that the fuel rods were damaged or had at least partially melted.

He said the situation won’t worsen as long as the reactors continue to be cooled with water.

“Right now, the most important thing for reactors 1 through 3 is to continue cooling them,” Kudo said. “I will not say that there is no need to worry, but I don’t think the situation will deteriorate as long as they continue to be cooled.”

Tepco conducted the computer simulation for units 2 and 3 after discovering last week that the water level indicator for the pressure vessel in reactor No. 1 was not working properly, and that coolant water had not fully covered the fuel rods.

After fixing the indicators, the utility found the water level was much lower than believed, and that the rods were fully exposed and likely melted down.

Consequently, Tepco said it began to doubt that the water level indicators for the pressure vessels in reactors 2 and 3 were working.

The results of the simulation were included in a report Tepco submitted to the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency

Radioactive water tanks at Japan plant nearly full TOKYO (AP) — Temporary containers holding radioactive water pumped from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors are almost full, a plant operator said Monday, raising concerns that it could overflow and leak into the sea again.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that the storage tanks will be full in four days, and a system to reprocess the water — now measuring more than 80,000 tons — for reuse in the reactors is not yet finished.

The highly radioactive water has been leaking from reactors whose cooling systems were destroyed in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that also killed more than 25,000 people.

Fully ridding the plant of the contaminated water — which is pooling in reactor and turbine buildings, trenches and pits — could take through the end of December, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto has said. The amount of the contaminated water could eventually swell to about 200,000 tons, as TEPCO continues to pump water into the reactors and their spent fuel storage pools to help control temperatures and radiation.

Matsumoto had initially said the storage area could last until the system is ready in mid-June. If the storage containers reach full capacity, the water would have to stay inside the turbine basement areas, where it is pooling.

“We believe it would not pose a risk of leak,” he said.

He said officials believe the basements can manage to hold the water for two weeks, brushing off concerns about leaks as Japan heads into a rainy season.

A leak into sea of highly radioactive water from Unit 2 in April triggered sharp criticism in and outside of Japan, sparking concerns about the safety of fish in the premier source for high-end sushi and other fish.

TEPCO has been working with French nuclear engineering giant Areva on a system to reprocess the water, reducing radioactivity and removing salt, so it can then be pumped back into the reactors for cooling.

The operator has also been scrambling to get hold of additional containers for water that is less radioactive. A mega-float giant storage tank that can hold about 10,000 tons of water arrived at the shores of the plant over the weekend.

Related: More radioactive water may leak from Fukushima plant(05/25) | Facility for tainted water almost full (Japan Times, May 24) | Kan denies he pulled plug on seawater (Japan Times, May 24)


‘Everything was by the book’ / TEPCO: Manual shutdown of reactor cooling system followed rules (May.25 DY)

Excerpts follow:

An emergency cooling system for the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was shut down manually by plant workers on March 11, after the earthquake but before the tsunami hit the plant, it has been learned.

The revelation was made in a report submitted Monday by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to the Nuclear Safety and Industrial Safety Agency.

TEPCO said the immediate response procedures taken on March 11 were in line with the firm’s operational manual.According to the report submitted to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s nuclear safety agency, when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m., the Nos. 1-3 reactors lost all external power, but emergency power sources were still in working order.

The quake triggered an automatic shutdown of the No. 1 reactor, and control rods were inserted into the reactor core.

At 2:52 p.m., an isolation condenser–a system designed to cool the reactor–was automatically activated.

But at 3:03 p.m., just 11 minutes later, the cooling system was suspended manually by plant workers.

The TEPCO operational manual says the reactor’s temperature should not be allowed to fall at a rate of 55 C per hour or more, and isolation condenser operations should be adjusted to prevent such an occurrence.

TEPCO said its workers halted the cooling system because it had caused excessive cooling, with the reactor temperature falling more than 100 C in the time the condenser had been operating.

The workers soon reactivated the condenser, before the tsunami hit the plant shortly after 3:30 p.m.

Many people have asked why it took so long for TEPCO to submit the report, which reached the agency under the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry just before the deadline late Monday.

The primary reason for the delay was that the reactors were without power, as their switchboards were submerged in water when the powerful tsunami struck. Most of the data TEPCO used to grasp what had happened in the reactors is normally recorded on computers at the reactors’ central control rooms.

But shortly after the tsunami, this recording capacity at the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors was largely disabled. Extremely high radiation levels near the control rooms in the early days of the crisis delayed the utility’s ability to retrieve data that had been recorded.

It was not until earlier this month, when radiation levels declined and rubble was cleared from the area, that TEPCO workers were able to enter the control room to collect the data.

Besides electronic data, paper records were also left inside the control rooms, which TEPCO scanned to add to the electronic records.

To fill in the gaps when there was neither electronic nor paper records, the utility interviewed officials who were at the plant at the time, and looked at job sheets and other notes left on whiteboards in the control rooms.

No ill effects seen from radiation so far: U.N. panel (Japan Times, May 25)  Excerpts follow:

“The U.N. committee on atomic radiation said Monday it has seen no ill effects on health because of radiation released from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

“So far, what we have seen in the population, what we have seen in children, what we have seen in workers . . . we would not expect to see health effects,” Wolfgang Weiss, chairman of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, said at a news conference.

“We cannot identify and attribute health effects to these doses,” he said, adding that further and detailed data on the radiation doses is needed to say more about the probability of longer-term health effects.” Read more here.

Japan’s Nuclear Conundrum (Japan Times, May 25) Nandakumar Janardhanan, an energy policy researcher at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, says the most critical question that must be asked is what alternatives are immediately available to make up for the loss of nuclear power…

Under Extreme Stress: Japan’s Dignity and Grace (Forbes Magazine, May edition) 

Engineers, researchers help disaster survivors access online info

Engineers from information technology companies and researchers from universities have cooperated to help survivors of the March 11 quake and tsunami access online information such as on daily life and employment. The “IT volunteers” have installed personal computers and networking lines for free at some shelters housing disaster evacuees as local governments and citizens groups have provided online information that would be useful for them. (Kyodo, May 21)

Orphans, other quake victims to get cash (Yomiuri, May 18)

The Miyagi prefectural government will give 500,000 yen to each child whose parents died in the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, using donations it has received in the wake of the disaster, prefectural officials said. The decision reflects the local government’s view that it is necessary to give such children special consideration, according to the officials. 

William Reed in “Turning a Page of History” Daijob.com writes of 

“the essential strengths of Japan have certainly surfaced in the aftermath of the crisis. Above all is pragmatism, the flexibility to adapt to circumstance and change. Though political debate may rage over responsibility and response, in reality the Japanese people themselves have shown remarkable adaptability and cooperativeness. You sense the strength of the group, people working together with respect for those who contribute, and who give of themselves to help the community. Though not always noticed by foreign media, there is a grassroots bonding at work that is getting back to what the Japanese have always had.
People are questioning ideas about business, work, and life that they had previously swallowed uncritically. Having been shaken at the roots, Japanese seem to be more interested now in those roots, than in the fragile branches which have been stripped away. The core value of avoiding waste and valuing resources, the sense of mottainai is coming back. People are remembering that less can be more.
This is certainly a challenge for many businesses which have been designed to survive on continuous and increased consumption, but for Japan now that may no longer be a sustainable way of life. The lifestyle of conspicuous consumption has grown strangely silent. Of course the Japanese love of quality and brand-consciousness is not likely to disappear, and the lifestyle it represents might come out of hiding once things settle down, but until then such proud pursuits seem secondary.
There is a strong sense of national pride, and a silent distaste for shirkers and deserters. Many people from around the world have shown love and support, while others have chosen to leave or avoid the country. A new kind of trade barrier now threatens to quarantine goods that come from Japan in fear of nuclear contamination. Under such circumstances it is easy to see that friends in need are friends in deed, and which people have proved themselves to be friends only in fair weather. If you show your support and love for Japan now in tangible ways, you will not be forgotten.

In recent years Japanese technology and business practices have been criticized by Western and even Japanese media for a phenomenon called the Galapagos Effect, evolution in isolation which has drifted apart from the global standard, and become unique to its own detriment. However, the crisis has actually shown the better side of the Galapagos Effect, the unique strengths of the culture that are now its salvation.”” (End of excerpt)

British TV Documentary “Nuclear Ginza” part 1 | part 2 on the dire working conditions at nuclear stations in Japan 

Important for Kanto residents! FYIPrimer on the Tokai megaquake

FYI – NATSUKO FUKUE PREPARING FOR DISASTER Success mixed when it comes to planning for disasters

Steep rise seen in false earthquake warnings (Japan Times)

Effort to ease radiation fears in Asia may have limited effect  (Japan Times)

Nuclear plant workers suffer internal radiation exposure after visiting Fukushima

Upcoming in movies:

Tree of Life trailer A new movie to be released soon in the UK focuses on a family with three boys in the ’50s as the eldest witnesses the loss of innocence

Another movie offering may interest you “Puss in Boots” – a story about the events leading up to the sword fighting cat’s meeting with Shrek and his friends

Movie review: New indie film is a “Bronte-lite” brisk update of the Jane Eyre classic novel

Tsunamis, Meltdowns and Japan’s Disaster Movie Obsession (Le Monde) Japanese fascination for epic disasters – both natural and man-made – has long been expressed in film, as a way to exorcize very real dangers. And when the movie comes to life?