Essay: Opinion: Energy: Focus on Japan:

The Next Energy Problem in Japan

by Dr. Hiroshi Taniguchi

Engineer and Architect

Tokyo, Japan


Recently, Japan elected a new member of Diet last December. Especially, the energy problem of nuclear power was one of the important discussion items for this new Diet member, because Japan has a very severe situation of power cost increases due to the current lack of nuclear power generation. An innovational party in the Diet says that natural power can support a sufficient energy supply in Japan, but natural power has no stable energy supply due to climate change and season variations. However, another conservative party in the Diet avers that minimum nuclear power will be important to keep our energy supply, because the energy cost has been limited by existing levels but the natural power has a higher cost than fossil or nuclear power. Fortunately, Japan has elected the many conservative members of the Diet and the conservative Cabinet will continue through 2015 and beyond.


Now, we try to re-start the nuclear power supported by conservative Diet, but we have severe discussion for nuclear accident and underground fault layer. So, some nuclear power plant may be checked by scientific committee and re-start in near future. Recently, our import of natural gas and oil has been increased so many level to the total economic activity. Therefore, Japanese Dollar money is gradually decreased and Japanese Yen will be decreased its exchange rate. Next, the natural power supply will be limited by capacity of electric power line and must be supported by energy storage system of pump-up generation dam etc, because the natural power of solar has only 12% of annual operation rate and another power of wind has about 22%. Then, the natural power supply may be limited by 50% of its total capacity and new natural power will be checked by stable operation conditions.


In the future, we try to check how to solve the CO2 emission trouble and how to avoid the temperature increase of earth environment. If we cannot use the nuclear power, the natural power must be increase and fossil fuel of natural gas, oil and coal will be limited by minimum level of CO2 emission. Now, the energy use of transportation is supported by fossil fuel of oil etc., so we must change from fossil fuel to hydrogen for driving power generation as soon as possible. However, the hydrogen must be produced by natural or nuclear power, instead of chemical hydrogen reformer. Today, we find new type of car with fuel cell in which the hydrogen can be converted to electric power for driving power generation, and it is possible to supply the domestic electric power from fuel cell of car at emergency conditions. However, this new car has a very high cost of triple level or over compared to existing one in Japan.


Then, we try to check how to construct our energy system and how to keep our environmental conditions of domestic and industrial system. If we have no nuclear power and try to use the natural power only, the energy cost will be increased as doubled or tripled with its low annual operating rate. Furthermore, another cost of electric power line and energy storage system will be increased, because the electric power must keep our domestic and industrial system with stable conditions. Today, our total energy consumption is gradually increased, but CO2 emission must be decreased for keeping our earth environment. So, we try to select which is better to keep the energy cost or the earth environment, but I think that the both target may be join together to pick up with us supported by scientific and engineering development.


About the Author:

Dr. Hiroshi Taniguchi, a native of Japan, was born to Sotoeand Chiyoko Hongo in 1930. He graduated from Hokkaido University in 1953, and three years later he married Yoko Kuroiwa. Dr. Taniguchi subsequently furthered his studies, completing Doctoral Degree of Engineering at Hokkaido University.


From 1953 until 1962, Dr. Taniguchi was Design and Development Engineer at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., Yokohama Shipyard; following this he became Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Hokkaido University, and in 1979, he was promoted to Professor. After he retired from this University in 1994, he was given the title of Professor emeritus, and became Professor in Department of Architecture at Hokkai Gakuen University. He was also given the title of Honorable Professor of Zhejiang University in China, in 1985.


Numerous honors have been bestowed upon Dr. Taniguchi, including Technical Paper Award from Society of Heating-Air Conditioning and Sanitary Engineers of Japan, Thermal engineering Award from Tanigawa Foundation, Technical Paper Award from Japan Society of Thermal Properties. He has also been awarded Research Awards from Combustion Society of Japan, Science and Technology Award from Hokkaido Prefecture, International Award from American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Contribution Award from Tomakomai City, Research Award from Energy Conservation Technology Committee of Korea, and Contribution Award from Hokkaido Prefecture. In addition, Dr. Taniguchi has published many Japanese books on subjects such as Computer Application, Radiation Heat Transfer, Quality Control, Thermal and Nuclear Power, Energy and Environment. He has also published Advances in Heat Transfer Vol.27, Radiative Heat Transfer by Monte Carlo Method, in English.


Not surprisingly, he has belonged to several prominent associations over the years, including Sapporo Rotary Club, Sapporo Probus Club, Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Heating-Air Conditioning and Sanitary Engineers of Japan, Combustion Society of Japan, Heat Transfer Society of Japan, Gas Turbine Society of Japan, Thermal and Nuclear Power Engineering Society, Japan Society of Energy and Resources, Architecture Institute of Japan, and Professors World Peace Academy.


Dr. Taniguchi has also served in various capacities. In 1969, he became Chairman of Hokkaido Prefecture High Technology Committee and Chairman of Tomakomai City Environment Committee. Eleven years later, he became Member of Japanese Government Committees on High Performance Industrial Furnace, Hydrogen Combustion Gas Turbine, Underground Air Accumulation Gas Turbine and Oxygen Combustion Power Plant.


Additionally, Dr. Taniguchi became Coordinator of Hokkaido Science and Technology Foundation in 1994. On a more personal note, Dr. Taniguchi and his wife, who is Professor of Tea Ceremony and loves the Japanese poetic form of Haiku, have two sons. Masayuki is Chief Researcher at Mitsubishi and Hitachi Power Systems Co. Ltd., and Nobuyuki is Professor in Department of Mechanical Engineering at Hokkaido University. With regard to religion, the family has practiced Buddhism for many years.


To relax, Dr. Taniguchi enjoys reading and playing Mahjong.


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