Here are our today’s EDU WATCH news update and briefs on the educational scene in Japan as well as elsewhere in the world:

Art aid sent as therapy for disaster-zone kids (Japan Times, Jun 21) Excerpts follow:

Renteria is using his lunch break to help his new classmates at Osaka International School of Kwansei Gakuin (OIS) in Minoo, Osaka Prefecture, take part in an international effort to support other children from the Tohoku region still suffering in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

He picks up a brightly painted canvas tote bag from a large pile on the floor and begins to fill it with 20 different kinds of art and music supplies — paints, brushes, colored pencils, sketchbooks, erasers, a recorder and music to play — that are laid out in a row of boxes on tables set up at the school’s front entrance.

The bag Renteria is filling was hand-painted with a message of hope by a child in Thailand. Some of his classmates are filling bags painted by children in Austria or ones they decorated themselves.

Most feature bright colors, flowers, rainbows and other symbols of hope and renewal.

In addition to the art supplies, Renteria picks two or three messages of support to include in his bag, each colorfully illustrated by a child attending one of the 30 schools in 23 countries that have raised money, or contributed in other ways to make this gift possible.

When the 212 bags are ready, Renteria helps box and load them onto a truck that will deliver them to Kirikiri Elementary School in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, which was created after the quake for children from four elementary schools that were destroyed.

Renteria said he’s glad the children will have new school supplies. “I hope now they’ll have something to do other than just worrying about what’s going to happen to them,” he said.

A similar idea inspired Renteria’s new art teacher at OIS, Jennifer Henbest de Calvillo, to set up Children’s Wishes for Japan in the days immediately after the quake.

By providing art and music supplies to children in the disaster-hit northeast, she hoped to give them a productive way to spend their time in evacuation shelters, as well as the tools necessary to express their emotions and “reconnect with humanity in a way that only art can provide.”

“It’s natural that after the earthquake the first donations people made were to the Red Cross,” Henbest de Calvillo said. “The idea was to make sure people had clean water and food, shelter and heating oil and all those kinds of things. But after those immediate needs had been met, we still have people who might be in shelters for two years or more.”

In such situations “the healing power of art and music can really make a difference,” she said.

Children’s Wishes for Japan began with a $100 donation from Henbest de Calvillo’s father, who doubted she could meet her goal of raising $10,000.

“Thinking about how much money was needed, I was a little scared,” she admitted.

But she had one advantage: she had taught at international schools in Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand and had also made connections with other schools around the world through art exchange programs.

“Soon after I contacted The Peterson School in Mexico City they had a Popsicle sale and sent us $1,000. The American School of Doha in Qatar sponsored ‘Compassion Walk’ and sent another $1,000,” she said.

A friend who teaches in Beijing asked her colleagues to donate the money they had raised for her retirement gift, about $500, to the project.

The OIS community also rallied around Henbest de Calvillo. A member of the school’s faculty donated all of the recorders, worth about $3,000, and the PTA raised a further $1,000.

Students gave up their allowances and bilingual parents spent hours translating into Japanese the more than 1,000 illustrated notes sent from students around the world.

Children’s Wishes for Japan has now raised more than $20,000. In addition to the 212 bags sent to Kirikiri Elementary School in Iwate, another 180 bags were sent later to three schools in Miyagi Prefecture.

But donations are still needed, as another 300 hand-painted bags will soon be arriving from children in Spain.

“If we had a little bit more money we could fill those too,” Henbest de Calvillo said, adding the most essential elements of the bags are the illustrated notes from children around the world, and the messages of hope painted on the sides.

“When the kids open these bags they are going to have all these things like paints and brushes and oil pastels and origami paper. They can cut and paste and glue, which is great,” she said.

“But I hope they will also think about all the people around the world who are supporting them. I hope they say, ‘Wow, someone really went to a lot of effort,’ and it wasn’t the Red Cross or other adults, it was kids. I hope they get a kind of mental support from that,” she said. …

– End of excerpt, read the whole article here.

To contribute to Children’s Wishes for Japan, contact Jennifer Henbest de Calvillo at jhcalvillo@senri.ed.jp, or for more information visit the group’s website at web.me.com/jhcalvillo/ChildrensWishesForJapan/CWJ.html.

Teachers pin down knife-wielding man with two-pronged ‘man catcher’ Ichi- (Jun 21, JapanToday)

Police on Monday were called to an elementary school in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, after a man illegally entered the premises carrying a kitchen knife. It is believed the 62-year-old man walked into the school by the open front gate at around 7:40 a.m. before the children had arrived and was then challenged by the school principal and teachers.

When they realized the man was armed, three of them decided to use a “sasumata,” a two-pronged device similar to a “man catcher,” which was a type of forked pole weapon used in Europe up until the 18th century. Police said the teachers used the weapon to pin the man down until they arrived. Police said that no-one was injured in the incident.

According to eyewitnesses, the man was first spotted on the premises by a female teacher, who informed the principal. The principal attempted to address the man, but the man just unwrapped a newspaper bundle he was carrying to reveal the kitchen knife. The principal said he instructed staff to fetch the fork-like tool, following which three teachers surrounded the man and held him in place using the weapon. Police quoted the suspect as saying, “I came here to threaten the children.”

The “sasumata” was originally used during the Edo era for apprehending suspects. Modern variants of the “sasumata” are made for use by mounted riot police and are designed to significantly reduce the chance of injury to restrained civilians. The school principal told police that he and his staff had performed training drills using the man catcher in preparation for just such an incident. “Our preparations really paid off in this instance,” he said.

Riken nabs supercomputer title (Japan Times, Jun 21) 

Research institute Riken said Monday a supercomputer it is developing in Kobe has been ranked the world’s fastest in terms of processing speed, the first time since 2004 that a Japanese supercomputer has held the top spot.

The supercomputer, nicknamed “K”, has been in the spotlight ever since Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Renho threatened to terminate the project in a bid to reduce unnecessary government spending. [See related news: Japanese supercomputer becomes world’s fastest  (YahooNews | NHK, Jun 20 The speed of operations was more than 3 times faster than last year’s fastest Chinese computer, and also about 200 times faster than the Japanese computer “Earth Simulator” which took 1st place in 2004.)]

Dosimeters given to 1,500 children, teachers in Fukushima town (Kyodo, Jun 21) Kinki University gave portable dosimeters on Tuesday to around 1,500 children and teachers in the town of Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, part of which has been designated as evacuation radius in the wake of the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Separately, the town government said it has decided to distribute the dosimeters to parents with children aged 4 or younger who do not attend kindergarten as well as pregnant women from July 1. Kinki University has been cooperating with the local government in measuring radiation dosages and compiling countermeasures.

Japanese supercomputer claims world’s top spot | Fujitsu Supercomputer is No. 1 (WSJ, Jun 20) 

A Japanese supercomputer built by Fujitsu Co. grabbed the title of world’s best-performing machine from a Chinese competitor, returning Japan to the top of the computer arms race for the first time in seven years.

Installed at Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research and also known as Riken, the Japanese government-funded “K Computer” performs more than eight quadrillion (8,000 trillion) calculations per second. K Computer is a play on the Japanese word “kei” for the number 10 quadrillion, which will be the number of calculations the machine is targeted to handle once it is completed in 2012.

In an era marked by China’s growing technological and economic emergence, the return to the top of the supercomputer heap will be a source of pride for Japan only a few months after China overtook it as the world’s second-biggest economy.

Weekend day care expanding for summer (Jun.21)

To cope with changes in working shifts at companies this summer aimed at saving energy, local governments have started changing operating hours of day care centers.

Some centers will begin operating on Sundays to accommodate workers whose companies want to move some operations to weekends to avoid operating on power-hungry weekdays. Some centers that already operate on Saturdays will extend their hours.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is conducting a survey of day care centers about weekend demand. The government will subsidize local governments that expand operating hours at such facilities.

In Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture, a municipal day care center will open Sundays from July to September. The facility will accept applicants across the city, and staff from each city-run nursery day care center will take turns working on Sundays.

A 40-year-old woman who works for a leading electronics manufacturer currently uses a nursery in the city for her 1-year-old son.

“Many employees in my workplace will start working Saturdays and Sundays beginning in July,” she said. “It’s nice that the nursery will open on weekends. But it’s a bit costly at 400 yen per hour.”

A survey conducted by the Ebina city government showed that parents of about 60 nursery school toddlers in the city want to use the service on Sundays.

There is high demand for weekend day care in regions where factories are located.

In Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, 11 municipal-run day-care centers will extend operating hours for 2-1/2 hours until 7:30 p.m on Saturdays beginning in July. Four of them will open on Sundays, too.

The Hitachi city government asked the day care centers to expand their hours in response to requests from about 20 percent of users. Parents will not have to pay for the expanded hours.

In Chiba, a city-run day-care center will start operating on Sunday this summer. And two day-care centers in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, will remain open longer on Saturday and will operate on Sundays for 2,500 yen per child.

In Aichi Prefecture, which hosts many auto-related factories, the prefectural government will pay 220,000 yen in subsidies to its local governments for each day care center that opens on Sundays, to help cover labor costs and other expenses. Twenty-one municipalities in the prefecture are planning to expand existing operating hours or start operating on Sundays.

The welfare ministry, meanwhile, is asking local governments to expand operating hours or to open on Sundays.

It plans to cover the costs with payments from a fund for children to prefectural governments aiming to eliminate waiting lists for nursery schools. However, the amount of money the ministry will pay has not been decided yet.

City in Saitama Prefecture sets independent maximum radiation dose for children (Mainichi, Jun 21)

The city government here has set the maximum radiation dose for children at 1.64 millisieverts per year, making it the first local government in Japan to implement its own radiation exposure standard.

The tentative figure announced on June 20 is based on the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)’s 1 millisievert recommended maximum exposure to man-made radiation sources, plus Japan’s average background radiation dose of 0.34 millisieverts and the average 0.3 millisieverts of annual exposure to cosmic radiation.

According to the Kawaguchi city government, the new annual exposure limit breaks down to a maximum hourly dose of 0.31 microsieverts, assuming a child spent eight hours a day outside. Officials will take radiation measurements at 10 sites in the city once a week, starting in mid-July. If they find radiation levels at a site have exceeded the new municipal maximum, the city will restrict outdoor activities at surrounding nursery schools, kindergartens, primary and junior high schools to three hours a day.

Related news: Tokyo area parents’ radiation worries grow with discovery of local ‘hotspots’ (Mainichi)

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In other news on education elsewhere in the world:

Exam-obsessed Hong Kong makes celebrity tutors rich (Independent, Jun 5, 2011) Excerpts below:

Cut-throat competition for exam success in Hong Kong’s high-pressure education system has spawned a new breed of teacher – celebrity tutors with near cult-like status and millionaire lifestyles.

The former British colony’s tutoring industry is reportedly worth at least HK$400 million ($51 million), with official figures showing as many as half of secondary school seniors seek private tutoring after school.

Hong Kong parents, often desperate to help their children succeed in the city’s intense public-exam system, are more than willing to shell out handsome sums for extracurricular help.

“Hong Kong has a very examination-oriented school culture and tutoring is regarded as a kind of educational investment,” said Kelly Mok, an English tutor who teaches at King’s Glory, one of the largest tutorial schools in Hong Kong. Read more here.

Singapore maths not easy to transplant (Jun 10, Straits Times) American schools run into problems with teacher training and turnover | Singapore Math: Simple or Complex? John Hoven and Barry Garelick discuss…

‘Free schools’ to be open all year (Telegraph) Schools will open throughout the year and teach on Saturdays under a Coalition plan to raise education standards, it emerged today

Next up are the news updates and briefs on the continuing Fukushima crisis:

Tokyo Electric Power Company is continuing work to reinforce a spent fuel pool at the Number 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.The walls supporting the pool were heavily damaged by a hydrogen blast on March 15th, following the earthquake and tsunami 4 days earlier.The pool contains 1,535 spent fuel rods and its weakened structure makes it vulnerable to future earthquakes.

TEPCO on Monday completed one stage of the reinforcement that began late last month. 32 iron pillars, each 8 meters tall and weighing 40 tons, were installed beneath the pool on the 2nd floor of the reactor building.

The utility plans to wrap the pillars in concrete by the end of next month.

Two doors at a disabled reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been opened as a part of efforts to bring down humidity inside the building.Tokyo Electric Power Company says the humidity near the entrance dropped to 58.7 percent on Monday morning when the first door was  opened. The ventilation began only after the operator had filtered radioactive substances from the air inside the building.

The latest on the water decontamination system:

Filtering system tested for full operation (NHK, Jun 21) The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has resumed testing of a filtering system for decontaminating highly radioactive wastewater at the facility. The Tokyo Electric Power Company resumed the test shortly after noon on Tuesday.

Earlier news: Water decontamination test at Fukushima stops (NHK, Jun 21)
After having resumed  testing the system early Tuesday morning after a previous stoppage, a pump for the French-made decontamination equipment malfunctioned and automatically stopped at around 7:20 AM on Tuesday, causing the operation of the entire system to halt.
TEPCO says the pump is used to add water to decrease the density of chemicals which break down radioactive substances. Apparently its malfunction was caused by too much water.Tokyo Electric says it wants to resume operation as early as Tuesday afternoon by adjusting the amount of water input.

Even earlier: TEPCO hopes to resume water decontamination soon (NHK, June 21) Tokyo Electric Power Company hopes to resume the decontamination process at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as early as Tuesday. The water treatment system stopped functioning only 5 hours after its start last Friday, as high levels of radiation were detected around the instruments used for absorbing radioactive materials.The utility said the radiation levels in the water were much higher than expected.

On Monday, TEPCO conducted tests on different absorbents and concluded that it needs to change them more frequently. It also found that the amount of contaminated water flowing through the system should be varied depending on radiation levels.

The unexpected problems are arising because the US maker of the treatment system has never dealt with such radioactive water.

Goshi Hosono, the prime minister’s advisor in charge of the Fukushima accident, said the system has been proven to decontaminate water and he still believes it will be successful.

The resumption of the water treatment system is urgent as facilities to store contaminated water at the Fukushima plant will reach capacity within a few days.

Radiation levels in the atmosphere were unchanged on June 20 after the double doors of the No. 2 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were opened.

Four workers measured radiation levels inside the building. They will adjust water and pressure gauges to prepare for cooling the reactor on a stable basis.

Workers began opening the double doors before 9 p.m. on June 19. The doors were opened gradually to prevent dust from being stirred up. The doors were fully open at 5 a.m. on June 20.

There were concerns that radioactive material inside the building would be released to the outside.

The double doors were earlier opened at the No. 1 reactor building.

The radiation levels inside the No. 2 reactor building were 5.15-27.1 millisieverts per hour. The workers were exposed to a maximum of 3.24 millisieverts during 12 minutes.

Humidity levels fell from 99.9 percent to less than 70 percent.

The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan said June 17 that the opening of the double doors would not affect the environment, and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency endorsed the commission’s view the same day.

:::

N-bldg cover to be built, unbuilt, rebuilt (Yomiuri, Jun 21)

IWAKI, Fukushima–Work to assemble parts of a giant cover for the No. 1 nuclear reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is proceeding at a fever pitch at Onahama Port in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.

The giant cover is designed to prevent most radioactive substances from dispersing into the atmosphere from the No. 1 reactor, which was damaged by a hydrogen explosion on March 12.

It will enclose an area of 42 meters by 47 meters and will stand 54 meters high.

To limit workers’ exposure to radiation and shorten the construction period, 62 parts, including pillars, beams and polyester-sheeted panels, are being assembled at the port into a unified structure. After it is confirmed that the parts fit together properly, the cover will be disassembled and transported to the nuclear power plant by ship.

On-site assembly of the components is scheduled to start next Monday. TEPCO plans to complete the work in late September.

Final construction of the cover will be carried out by two giant cranes, which will be remote-controlled.

A traditional Japanese insertion-only joint method, which does not employ welding or bolts for joining materials, is being used to assemble the cover.

Group seeks guardians for earthquake orphans (Yomiuri, Jun.21)

Congregation de Notre-Dame, a Roman Catholic educational corporation that operates schools ranging from kindergarten to junior college in Fukushima Prefecture, has established an organization to help children orphaned by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The organization, Higashi-Nihon Daishinsai Tomoshibi Kai (Association of lights for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake), is asking people to become foster parents of the orphans and plans to assist them financially.

It will provide 80,000 yen a month to foster parents and continue to give aid to orphans for up to 20 years until they graduate from junior colleges or universities.

As of Wednesday, 205 children under 18 had been orphaned by the disaster–82 in Iwate Prefecture, 105 in Miyagi Prefecture and 18 in Fukushima Prefecture.

Initially, the organization will take care of 10 orphans while searching for foster parents for them.

Some teachers and parents of students in schools run by Congregation de Notre-Dame have already expressed willingness to become foster parents.

Some teachers and parents of students in schools run by Congregation de Notre-Dame have already expressed willingness to become foster parents.

The corporation is affiliated with a Roman Catholic order. If orphans wish, the order’s convent will take them in and sisters will raise them.

In addition, orphans who qualify can enroll in Sakura no Seibo Gakuin schools, from kindergarten to junior college, which are run by Congregation de Notre-Dame, for free.

The middle and higher schools run by the corporation are for girls only, but it will provide financial aid to boys who enroll in other schools.

The predecessor of Congregation de Notre-Dame took in war orphans after the end of World War II and built primary and middle schools for them.

Keiko Shibayama, head of Congregation de Notre-Dame in Japan, said, “We’ll return to our starting point and work for the children.”

Ashinaga Ikueika, a scholarship foundation based in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, also provides financial aid for minors orphaned by the disaster.

It provides 500,000 yen for orphans up to middle school age, 800,000 yen for high school and preparatory school students, and 1 million yen for students in vocational schools, universities and graduate schools.

Ashinaga Ikueikai said it has provided aid to 1,068 persons.

The government has a system of foster parents for orphans or children who have been abused by their parents. Prefectural governments and other authorities ask people to raise such minors as foster parents.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 7,180 households were registered as foster parents as of the end of March 2010. They receive money for meals and other expenses for the minors from state coffers.

Moms turn activists in Japanese crisis (AWSJ, Jun 20)

Yuki Osaku worried about the welfare of her 1-year-old and 3-year-old boys after a series of explosions rocked Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-plant complex in mid-March. But her parents and husband told her she was overreacting—their suburb of Tokyo is 124 miles away from the stricken plant.

Fueled by online networking, mothers like Ms. Osaku are now putting increased pressure on Japanese officials at the national and local level to better protect their children. On Thursday, one small group gathered in Tokyo to protest—the latest in a handful of similar demonstrations by mothers—attracting considerable media attention.

Also on Thursday, the government, in an acknowledgment of one complaint that radiation around wastewater-processing facilities is too high, said levels there should be brought down to meet official guidelines. Government officials in recent weeks have disclosed elevated levels in hot spots a considerable distance from the plant. Elevated radiation was discovered recently in Kanagawa prefecture, about 186 miles south of the plant, in the form of contaminated tea leaves.

Still, some experts worry that groups like Ms. Osaku’s could cause the Japanese public to overreact. “There is no conclusive evidence about the effects of long-term exposure to low-level radiation on human health,” says Genichiro Wakabayashi, lecturer at Kinki University’s atomic-energy research institute. “It would be more harmful for children if they had to wear masks and long-sleeved shirts and to stay indoors in the middle of summer.” Read more here…

The Geiger Club: Mothers bust silent the radiation consensus (AWSJ, Jun 17)

The writer lamblasts TEPCO for delays on plans to build of the subterranean barrier dam to prevent groundwater and seawater contamination in Preventing radiation contamination more important than TEPCO’s stock prices (Mainichi Jun 20) Excerpts follow:

“Some people have suggested that I start to write about something other than nuclear power plants, but with the situation as it is, that’s not going to happen. The crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is still not over. Far from it, there are signs that it is getting worse. I can’t stand by and look at the political situation without focusing on this serious event.

One figure who has entered the public spotlight in the wake of the nuclear crisis is 61-year-old Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute and a controversialist in the anti-nuclear debate. A specialist in nuclear power, Koide has garnered attention as a persistent researcher who has sounded the alarm over the dangers of this form of energy without seeking fame.

In a TV Asahi program on June 16, Koide made the following comment:

“As far as I can tell from the announcements made by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the nuclear fuel that has melted down inside reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant has gone through the bottom of the containers, which are like pressure cookers, and is lying on the concrete foundations, sinking into the ground below. We have to install a barrier deep in the soil and build a subterranean dam as soon as possible to prevent groundwater contaminated with radioactive materials from leaking into the ocean.”

His comment captured public interest and when I asked a high-ranking government official about it, the official said that construction of an underground dam was indeed being prepared. But when I probed further, I found that the project was in limbo due to opposition from TEPCO.

Sumio Mabuchi, an aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan who is dealing with nuclear power plant issues, holds the same concerns as those expressed by Koide and has sought an announcement on construction of an underground dam, but TEPCO has resisted such a move.

The reason is funding. It would cost about 100 billion yen to build such a dam, but there is no guarantee that the government would cover the amount. If an announcement were made and TEPCO were seen as incurring more liabilities, then its shares would fall once again, and the company might not be able to make it through its next general shareholders’ meeting.

In my possession, I have a copy of the guidelines that TEPCO presented to the government on how to handle press releases. The title of the document, dated June 13, is “Underground boundary’ — Regarding the press.” It is split into five categories on how to handle the announcement of construction of an underground boundary. In essence, it says, “We are considering the issue under the guidance of prime ministerial aide Mabuchi, but we don’t want to be seen as having excess liabilities, so we’re keeping the details confidential.”

Possibly the silliest response to envisaged questions from reporters is TEPCO’s suggestion for a reply to the question, “Why hasn’t construction been quickly started?” The response reads: “Underground water flows at a speed of about 5 to 10 centimeters a day, so we have more than a year before it reaches the shore.”

Initially an announcement on the underground barrier was due to be made to the press on June 14, but it was put off until after TEPCO’s general shareholders meeting on June 28.

In the meantime, the state of the nuclear power plant continues to deteriorate and radioactive materials are eerily spreading and contaminating the area around the plant.”

Rice planted for radiation testing in Iitate  (Jun 20 NHK)

The government has planted rice in an experimental paddy in one of the evacuation zones near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant.

A government-affiliated research center on Monday planted rice in Iitate Village, where all agricultural products are under restricted cultivation. The village is located about 40 kilometers northwest of the plant.

An average of 2,600 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of soil was detected in the rice paddy at 15 centimeters depth. The level is below the government’s upper limit of 5,000 for rice paddies. Before contaminated surface soil was removed, the cesium level was four times higher.

The government will harvest rice from the paddy in October and then conduct tests for radioactive contamination.

All residents in Iitate have been asked to evacuate.

In related news: Iwaki City begins asking about evacuation (NHK, Jun 20)

Disposal of nuclear waste should be made a top priority (Mainichi)

Japan’s renewable energy plans: Chasing rabbits using solar power? (Mainichi Jun 15)  Excerpts follow:

“The reason modern civilization has thrived is that is has a large amount of surplus energy. On this point, one would think that nuclear power would far surpass petroleum, but as we have seen with the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, far from having a surplus, we have been left with a shortage of energy. In terms of quality of energy, nothing surpasses fossil fuels such as petroleum.

Yoshinori Ishii, an emeritus professor at the University of Tokyo, says that quality is everything when it comes to energy. There is a large amount of uranium in the sea, for example, but it is widely dispersed and cannot be used. In other words, poor quality energy is the same as no energy at all.

To get to the point, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is pushing for the use of solar power, and using solar panels on any roof that can have them. In doing so he is attempting to cover the energy that has become difficult to provide through nuclear power.

Does solar power provide good quality energy? The energy profit ratio (EPR) gives us one basis for judgment. If one unit of energy can be used to produce three equivalent units, then the EPR is 3. If the EPR is below 1, then, as the rabbit limit shows us, it is not worthwhile to produce that form of energy.

It has been said that the EPR of solar power is about 5, but that the quality of energy is not that great. However, proponents of this form of energy say the latest forms of solar power have EPRs as high as 10 or 20. The problem is, we don’t know which figures are correct.

What we do know is that without subsidies, solar power will not find a strong footing in Japan. Considering this, we have to say it is of “poorer quality” than natural gas or coal.

With the decline of nuclear power, power fees may rise in Japan and many factories may have to shift overseas. For this reason, Kan is promoting renewable energy. That is indeed a plan in its own right, but it is incomprehensible for the “quality” of energy to be left out of the picture. Fossil energy must play the main role of filling the gap left by the absence of nuclear power.

Just think about it. Could you catch rabbits using a solar-powered buggy? I would go for a car with a diesel engine.” – End of excerpt

Nascent recovery in industrial production, exports | Economy up for first time in four months (Japan Times, Jun 21)

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In Health & Safety news:

A 3 year old girl dies after suffering from HUS complications following contraction of the E. coli 0157 disease. Japanese Asahi news reported that investigations of the source of contamination showed the infection source was not from the daycare (hoikuen) that the child had attended. See report (J. only)  三重の3歳女児、O157で死亡 生肉は口にせず or trans. version 0157: Three year old girl has died of infection in Mie (0157 is a different strain from the current highly toxic 0104 strain circulating in Europe)

Drowning a risk high for kids in portable pools (WSJ)

Panel urges tsunami defense / Local govts advised to prepare for possible massive disaster (Yomiuri, Jun.21) | Quake may trigger ‘gigantic’ tsunami (Yomiuri, Jun.21)