Monday, 9 May 2011

The lights are going out ...

After Golden Week, I went in to uni on the Friday to find that the bulbs had been removed from one of the two sets of lights in my office, and a sticker placed above the light switch urging me to save electricity. Since they are those nasty neon strip lights I do not use them much except after 5pm when it goes dark. (Being near the equator it gets dark around 7 in the summer and 5 in the winter. When I tell students that in England it sometimes stays light until 10pm in the summer they think it is some kind of Harry Potter magic.) My office is L-shaped, the other part of the square being taken up by the men`s room from which eminates a constant dripping and sometimes a flushing noise. So I tend to work elsewhere whenever possible. Sometimes I am there in the evening however and with one set of lights now gone, I need a torch to find books on the shelves in the L. Luckily I always carry a small torch in my bag. That`s fine.

In my pigeon hole there was a notice featuring a graph of power usage last July. This summer it seems the university must limit power usage to 955kw per hour. However last year university usuage exceeded this from 10am to 5pm. On the other side of the sheet was a list of instructions detailing how to save that power. For example, some large auditoriums will be closed and the dining hall will only be air-conditioned at lunch-time. That`s fine too. In fact at this rate Japan might meet its Kyoto Accord promises.

And today it was announced that the Hamaoka nuclear power station is to be shut down. The Hamaoka power station is on the coast to the west of Tokyo in Shizuoka prefecture. It supplies the power for the chubu or central area of Japan. It was the plant that the woman in my yoga class was petitioning two weeks ago to get closed. But why now? The Hamaoka power station has always been on the coast and in a region that had been designated (before the recent big one) as the most likely region for the next big one. So much so that in that prefecture. elementary school kids have to wear hard hats to and from school and keep them hanging on their coat pegs. I know the Hamaoka plant well as I used to live and work in nearby Hamamatsu and the place was a running joke even then regarding safety. So why are Chubu Power agreeing to Kan`s request to close it now? Kan has no legal power to order it closed. That decision rests with the shareholders who are going to lose money. Is the danger of another quake so great right now that the station must be closed immediately? Or is it that Kan`s position as PM is so precarious that he must bow to popular opinion on this one? I think it might just be the Japanese cultural trait of panicking well after the event. Japan has over 50 nuclear reactors. How many are going to be closed down?

So I think we are in for a really tough summer. Coolbiz (see my post last year) has already started and I have been sweating buckets teaching in classes with temperatures in the upper 20`s. And it`s not even humid yet.

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