USA-Japan Nuclear Alliance — History, Importance & Prospective Policies For Technocultural Exchange

This text endeavours to lay out the history of US-Japanese nuclear relations, the geopolitical implications thereof and some tentative policy proscriptions pertaining thereto for maximally mutual advancement of both nation’s interests.

Table of contents

  • Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations
  • 2018 US-Japanese memorandum
  • Importance of the alliance
  • Reasons for the durability of success
  • Geographic particularities of the alliance
  • Tentative policy proscriptions for further US-Japanese technocultural development & geopolitical stability

Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations

Civil nuclear relations between the United States of America and Japan began with the signing of the US-Japan Nuclear Research Agreement in 1955. Japan’s first long-term atomic energy plan was deployed the following year, 1956. Throughout the 60s and 70s bilateral operations between US and Japan increased.

Nov. 1987, Japan and the United States signed a nuclear cooperation agreement: Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy. The agreement went into effect a year later in 1988 and was set to expire July 2018. The deal afforded Japan the unique distinction of being the only nation without a nuclear arsenal which was allowed by the nuclear-armed powers to produce plutonium (with the stipulation that such material be produced solely for peaceful purposes), obviating a lengthy process of step-by-step verification which would otherwise be required. This allowed Tokyo to pursue nuclear recycling.

July, 2018, Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy is renewed. The agreement meant that Japan could receive special nuclear material (reactors, whole or in part, fuel, etc.) from the US so long as they kept to the non-proliferation standards of Section 123 pursuant to the US Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 which was amended to better account for nonproliferation (NNPA) in 1978.

2018 US-Japanese nuclear memorandum

A nuclear cooperation memorandum between the United States of America and the unitary, parliamentary, constitutional monarchy of Japan (which needs to import 90% of its energy requirements) was signed Nov. 13. The memorandum was signed by Japan’s METI and Ministry of Science and the US’ DOE and Department of Commerce. The purpose of the memorandum was to “promote the global leadership role” of both sovereignties in the arena of peaceful nuclear advancement.

METI stated: “With this memorandum of understanding, we will further advance cooperative relations between Japan and the United States in the field of nuclear power.”

Importance of the alliance

This is a significant partnership given that as per the WEF 2018 Global Competitiveness Report, The United States of America is the single most competitive economy in the world (85.6‡) with Japan trailing only slightly as the fifth most competitive economy in the world (82.5‡), pertinent for the obvious reason that the respective countries economic effectiveness will directly factor into their nuclear research, development and deployment (RDD). Further, as per the WEF 2018 Regional Risks Of Doing Business report the top ten risks, globally include:

1 Unemployment or underemployment
2 Failure of national governance
3 Energy price shock
4 Fiscal crises
5 Cyber-attacks
6 Profound social instability
7 Failure of financial mechanism or institution
8 Failure of critical infrastructure
9 Failure of regional and global governance
10 Terrorist attacks

… whilst the top 10 risk of doing business in East Asia & The Pacific are:

1 Cyber-attacks
2 Unemployment or underemployment
3 Asset bubble
4 Energy price shock
5 Data fraud or theft
6 Failure of national governance
7 Failure of regional and global governance
8 Fiscal crises
9 Failure of critical infrastructure
10 Manmade environmental catastrophes

Thus, the USA-Japanese alliance signals a potential, if not solution, mitigation to most of these issues in varying ways, especially as pertains to unemployment and energy price shocks (via obtaining energy independence). Further, the successful renewal and re-commitment of the Japan-US nuclear agreement is the single oldest civil nuclear alliance in the world, which serves as a example of bilateral success which other developing states and non-state actors can build upon.

Reasons for the durability of the alliance

In 1274 Mongol Khagan Kublai launched a military campaign against the Japanese archipelago. The Mongol fleet was initially successful and conquered the Japanese settlements of Iki and Tsushima but met fierce samurai resistance at Hakata Bay and were forced to withdraw and as they did so, the fleet was struck with a kamikaze or divine wind which some believed to have been sent by the god Raijin; the fleet was decimated and most of the Mongol ships were swallowed by the sea. The Japanese then began to build high walls to prepare for future invasions. Seven years later, the Mongols returned but could not pass the walls. The invading armada stayed afloat for a long period of time before Raijin sent yet another kamikaze which destroyed the fleet. The mongols never launched another invasion of Japan.

Since this time Japan has become a formidable maritime power in contestant with China over the Indian Ocean (via their OBOR and String of Pearls initiatives), a further strain on a already sour relationship, given the historical contestation of the Senkaku islands. China/Russia and Japan/America now sit on opposite sides of a newly congealing international order with the former as a rising superpower at the head of the Eurasian Bloc and the latter at the head of the new Atlanticist Bloc (which maintains economic dominance via the encapsulation of 7 of the top 10 most competitive economies). Japan also shares numerous attributions with the United States which makes for a durable alliance; for example, both share democratic principals and both have strategic investment in the trade routes in and around the Indian Ocean. It is more than “just business,” a relationship built upon mutual understanding as opposed merely to trade is invariably more lasting, provided those values stay within a certain threshold of alignment. There is no clear indication that they will be shifting any time soon.

Thus, it makes practical sense for Japan and America to work together, given their history, amidst this turbulent and accelerating reshaping of political geography. This analysis is accurate but not sufficient, given that it does not account for the emerging synnefocracies — non-state actors which rival or surpass traditional Westphalian states — such as The Party of Davos, Amazon, Google, Facebook, The Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundations, among many others, a issue which, sooner or later, will need to be addressed with considerable resources, given the way that such organizations obviate or undermine sovereign totalities (both intentionally, in the pursuit of a new international order, and unintentionally, in the reckless deployment of resources, policies and philosophies without accounting for their attendant, spider-webing effects).

Geographic particularities of the alliance

The Indian Ocean region is of considerable strategic importance, given that its sea-lanes form the world’s single largest trade route and account for 14% of total ocean-surface, globally. As of 2018, approximately 100,000+ vessels, including oil and LNG tankers and container carriers, were active in the region. Nearly 80% of the world’s oil tankers pass through the Indian Ocean. Of relevance to these facts: Japan is a large purchaser of Iranian oil yet Iran is at cross-purposes with the USA. 2018 US President Donald J. Trump backed the Saudis against Iran, condemning the latter as the single largest state sponsor of terror, world-wide (a dubious claim). Iranian-US diplomatic disintegrations began after the overthrow of US-sympathetic Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This transitory period beheld the rise of religious fanaticism and the re-instantiation of islamic theocracy syncretically fused with republicanism. Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, known in the western media simply as Ayatollah Khomenini, an usuli of Twelver Shia, became the country’s supreme leader. The same year the shah was overthrown Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line took control of a US embassy in Tehran, holding the 52 US workers and citizens there hostage for 444 days. Khomenini was unaware of the the student’s scheme but supported their actions once they came to light. Shortly thereafter, the US shut down all diplomatic relations with Iran. The event still resonates discordantly to this day and, when paired with religious tensions, the US-Israeli alliance, past US support of Saddam, interventionism (on both sides) and posturing, a deep-seated animosity has blossomed between Persia and the land of the free and the home of the brave. This simmering hostility requires rectification, regardless of Japan’s relationship to it or the US, if a lasting middle eastern peace is to be established. Through Japan, this is possible.

Tentative policy proscriptions for further technological development & geopolitical stability

Accounting For Global Perception

A 2018 poll aggregation by Pew Research Center showed that the US is still generally viewed favorably and, of particular importance, globally, more countries prefer the US as the world’s superpower over China. Globally, the American People are still highly respected for their accomplishments and their dedication to liberty, however, global confidence in the Trump Administration is quite low (lower than both Bush and Obama, generally). Further, there has been a long-standing trend in other countries of a perception that the US does not adequately take other countries’ interests into account when making foreign policy decisions (a perception which is obviously laced in much truth, though the same may often be made of those who leverage the accusation). The US is generally viewed very unfavorably by Western Europe and very favorably in Asia. When the polled countries were asked who they would prefer as the world leader 81% of Japanese stated they would prefer the USA, indicating a extremely positive view of the USA. Additionally, the USA also holds a favorable view of Japan; a 2018 spring survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 68% (roughly two-thirds) of US citizens polled held positive views of Japan, a view Americans have held more or less consistently since 2005. Given this favorability and the history of US-Japanese relations, both nations should move forward, together, in a re-commitment to a rules-based international order.

PG_2018.10.1_U.S.-Image_4-3.png

Japan & Iran

Given the trade and lasting 90 year diplomatic relationship between Japan and Iran and the centrality of Iran and the Shia Crescent more broadly to stability in the Middle East, it would be preferable for the US to renew its commitment to diplomacy with Tehran, if stability is desired. This will require a tempering of Israeli/Iranian proxy aggression and a mitigation of hostilities against the US and the west more broadly. This may be accomplished, slowly, by, first and foremost, ceasing all unnecessary military adventurism in the Middle East and making appeals to Khatami’s unrealized dialogue of civilizations initiative and the organizational aspects of Köchler’s dialogue entre les différentes civilisations. To this end, a inter-cultural institute, whether digital-only or both digital and brick-and-mortar, could be created as a tripartite cultural hub to advance a working knowledge and of Japanese, Iranian and US culture and history. Enlisting the aid of pro US-Japanese education, research and policy advocacy organizations such as the Sasakawa Peace Foundation may be helpful in realizing such a project if it is found to be desirable.

Even if this plan proves fruitful, the question will still remain as to what is to be done concerning China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Issues which should be kept in mind and integrated into further diplomatic ventures.

Indo-Pacific Strategy: Building Upon The TCTO

In 2016, during a speech in Kenya, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expounded upon a Two Oceans, Two Continents (TOTC) strategy for stability and growth in the Indo-Pacific region. Abe’s plan centered around Africa, which has tremendous potential for growth, and Japan, which had been experiencing rapid growth. It would be beneficial for the US, Africa and Japan to, at the very least, encourage this arrangement along.

Bilateral Fusion Advancement

Nuclear fusion is a extremely promising technological possibility, one which is increasingly feasible qua the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator and China’s EAST reactor. Given this, it would be reasonable to propose a joint nuclear fusion — of a breadth acceptable within the constraints of the time of initiation — R&D venture between the US & Japan as a avenue of technological collaboration outside of the parameters of the EU-hosted ITER program. Co-development of breeder reactors or SMRs may also be beneficial to increase the speed at which these technologies are developed, the venture would also allow for mutually beneficial cross-cultural exchange outside of just energy development, a exchange which could serve to further cement positive relations between both powers. As of the spring of 2018, 83% (roughly 8-in-10) Japanese held negative views of the workforce, fearing that automation would increase income inequality between rich and poor, 74% thought that ordinary Japanese will have a hard time finding jobs. Japanese’s population is in decline and expected to decrease from 127 million in 2018 to 88 million in 2065 from low-birthrates and emigration, which only contributes to anxiety surrounding automation, among other issues. Without significant immigration or a sudden and marked spike in birthrates, a employment deficit is probable. Further, though the Japanese have a favorable view of immigrants, they do not wish immigration to increase and view emigration from Japan negatively. Given these factors it is preferable for Japan to initiate a multi-pronged approach to job cultivation to inspire confidence. It is here that a international, bilateral arrangement between US and Japan could prove fruitful, not just for economic ends, but for markedly improving the lives of the forgotten citizenry of both countries and the knowledge of all mankind.

There is no purpose without power, and no power without resources. Here the alliance finds its purchase.


Numbers given are ratings based on a 0-100 scale – the USA is 14 away from 100.


Sources & further resources

  1. Paul Kerr & Mary Nikitin. (2018) Nuclear cooperation with other countries.
  2. WEF. (2018) The Global Competitiveness Report: 2018.
  3. WEF. (2018) Regional Risks Of Doing Business Report: 2018.
  4. Phyllis Yoshida. (2018) US-Japan Nuclear Cooperation: The Significant of July 2018.
  5. SPF. (2018) Policy Recommendations by Quadripartite Commission On The Indian Ocean Regional Security.
  6. SPF. (2016) Japan-Russia Relations: Implications For The US-Japan Alliance.
  7. Tomoyuki Kawai. (2017) US to renew nuclear pact with Japan.
  8. Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The Strategic Implications Of American Energy Independence.
  9. Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The South China Sea & US-China Trade Policy: Are They Becoming Linked?
  10. Kristen Bialik. (2018) How The World Sees The US & Trump In 9 Charts.
  11. The White House. (2018) Statement From The President Donald J. Trump On Standing With Saudi Arabia.
  12. Carol E. B. Chosky et al. (2015) The Saudi Connection: Wahhabism & Global Jihad.
  13. Kara Bombach et al. (2018) Iran Sanctions ‘Snapback’ Finalized Nov. 5th, 2018.

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Report Details Potential Of DOE-backed SMR Deployment Program

A 2018 report by Scully Capital in collaboration with Kutak Rock, Examination of Federal Financial Assistance in the Renewable Energy Market: Implications & Opportunities for Commercial Deployment of Small Modular Reactors details the government subsidization strategy of so-called renewable‡ energy (solar and wind) and looks at how a similar program could be crafted around small modular reactors (SMRs). Small modular reactors are advanced nuclear reactors that offer a number of benefits over classical reactor models, namely their smaller size, swift construction times, cleanliness, security applications and safer passive cooling systems. The DOE estimates that power shortages cost US companies approximately $150 billion per year, SMRs would greatly reduce this loss due to their ability to act as highly reliable back-up generators. Additionally, just like classical reactors, SMRs are a non-intermittent energy source.

Key findings:

  • SMR would be far more cost-effective than solar/wind.
  • To create a meaningful commercial impact the report suggest plan to incentivize and insure, 6 GW capacity by 2035 which would require approximately 15 SMR projects of 400 MW capacity each.
  • If such a plan was developed with production tax credits (PTCs) and DOE credit it would cost approximately 10 billion USD.
  • (Total) investments in wind and solar: $51 billion ($0.0108/kWh).
  • (Potential) investments in SMRs: $10 billion ($0.0034/kWh).

‡ Renewable is a obnoxious buzzword for numerous reasons, first and foremost is the fact that it refers to energy generation technologies which are manifestly not endlessly renewable. Putting aside the expiration of the sun and the earth (and hence the wind), solar panels and wind turbines still require raw materials which are of limited supply. Further, operating from the underlying assumption of renewables proponents, to say that “renewables” are the most desirable kinds of energy production technology is to also implicitly fall into alignment with the tendency to treat present and inferior (intermittent) energy generation technologies as superior merely by dint of their “renewability.” This is not to say that they should not be made but rather to note merely that such imprecise buzzwords are unhelpful to the degree they obfuscate or wholly obviate technical realities. Unfortunately, the paper makes no effort to dispense with the term.


Further reading

  1. Small Modular Reactors — Adding Resilience at Federal Facilities.
  2. Small nuclear power reactors

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The Future of Fusion: China’s EAST Tokamak Reactor & Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X Stellarator

Whilst present future-energy discussions are consumed by a locked-in back and forth between proponents of “renewables” and “fossil fuels,” nuclear energy has faded into the background. This is unfortunate as one of the most promising energy developments, nuclear fusion, is being consistently overlooked or dismissed as too far-flung and fanciful.

Nuclear fission is the process utilized at contemporary nuclear facilities whether LWRs or HWRs, fast-breeders or graphite moderated, wherein a uranium atom is split, releasing a tremendous amount of energy and a significant amount of nuclear by-product which decays slowly. In contradistinction to fission, nuclear fusion merges hydrogen atoms together into helium atoms and generates larger amounts of energy than fission and also generates a large amount of by-product which decays rapidly. Fusion is the process by which stars (such as our sun) generate energy. Whilst fusion is easy in a solar body as massive as the sun, due to the extreme pressure and heat, it is very difficult to recreate on earth.

Some of the most promising means of recreating the internal conditions of a star were achieved via the creation and utilization of tokamak reactors (the word “tokamak” comes from a Russian science abbreviation). Tokamak reactors differ markedly from traditional nuclear fission reactors in terms of their design which features a doughnut shaped apparatus (torus) that houses deuterium and tritium (heavy and super-heavy hydrogen isotopes) which are then meant to be heated to 100+ million degrees Celsius via electric currents within the apparatus. At such high temperatures the electrons are stripped off of the atoms and generate charged hydrogen plasma. Magnets within the tokamak reactor constrain the plasma to a small area which both keeps it from melting the machine-interior (because no known material can withstand such high temperatures) and increases the chances of hydrogen ions fusing and giving off more energy. The energy generated by this process can then be used to turn water to steam and power turbines to generate electricity.

One of the most well known tokamak reactors in the world is China’s EAST (Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak), located in Hefei; the first reactor in the world to utilize super-conducting toroidal (parallel to lines of latitude) and poloidal (towards the poles) magnets. EAST has been able to achieve temperatures of 50 million Celsius for 102 seconds, the device was also able to sustain plasma for over 100 seconds (a world record at the time of achievement in 2017). Later, the EAST reactor was able to achieve temperatures of 100 million Celsius, the ideal temperature range for the technology.

aritificial-sun.jpg
China’s EAST reactor exterior.

EAST’s success is the culmination of over 12 years of intensive research and planning as researchers from China’s Hefei Institute of Physical Science have been attempting to achieve nuclear fusion since 2006.

A large collaborative project (of which China is a member) known as the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is slated for testing 2027 in the south of France and is designed and expected to produce 10 times the number of energy utilized to power it which, if successful, will be the very first tokamak reactor to output more power than was put into the system.

Whilst even the most impressive tokamaks, such as EAST, to date, cannot output more energy than is put into them, the fact that they can generate charged plasma and increasing densities is extremely promising. However, tokamak reactors are not the only configurations being developed in the pursuit of nuclear fusion. Another promising reactor design purposed for nuclear fusion are known as stellarators (from the latin for star) and were first envisioned by the American theoretical physicist Lyman S. Spitzer Jr. Unlike tokamaks, stellarator reactors feature a modified torus which allows for better sustained plasma via the utilization of computationally modeled magnetic fields (to better direct and contain the plasma). One of the world’s most advanced stellarators is the Wendelstein 7-X of the Max Plank Institute For Plasma Physics of Greifswald, Germany. The Wendelstein has been able to sustain plasma for up to 26 seconds which is quite impressive given that a few years ago the public was astounded when plasma was sustain for less than a second. The rate of advancement in system enhancement bodes well.

800px-Wendelstein7-X_Torushall-2011.jpg
Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X reactor exterior.

Another vector of research is laser fusion wherein extremely short bursts of high powered lasers are used to achieve the high-temperature and pressure scenarios required for fusion via the hyper-compression of hydrogen isotopes which then fuses into helium and releases high-energy neutrons. A vexing consequence of this process (when utilizing deuterium and tritium) is the creation of neutron radiation. A alternative laser fusion method at the University of South Wales utilizes normal hydrogen protons and boron 11. Hydrogen-boron (HB11) fusion is fascinating because it produces very, very low levels of radioactivity; in fact the radioactivity levels are lower even than those generated by coal production. That’s extremely promising. But then the obvious question: How far away are any of these technologies from a fully functional, generously outputting fusion reactor?

According to ITER Director General Bernard Bigot, “The ITER project is very much on track. By the second half of this century this fusion technology will be available.” Others say development will take slightly longer, others, sooner. No one knows precisely, but what everyone can say for certain is that the technologies are progressing rapidly as both EAST and 7-X aptly demonstrate. In place of a “green” future we should be angling – championing – for a future far brighter, wherein the stars are not only ours to own, but ours to emulate and control.


Further reading

  1. A. Dinklage. (2018) Magnetic configuration effects on the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator. Nature.
  2. Alex Epstein. (2016) Why Green Energy Means No Energy. Forbes.
  3. V. Gulati. (2018) How Far Are We From Commercial Fusion Energy? Yahoo News.
  4. WNN. (2018) Renewables experience could benefit US SMR deployment. World Nuclear News.

Globally, 183 Nuclear Units Set To Be Decommissioned By 2020

Globally, around 76 nuclear reactors are expected to retire by 2019, followed by 183 units in the 2020s and 127 units in the 2030s. As of Sep. 2017, more than 110 commercial power reactors, 48 prototype reactors, 250 research reactors, and various fuel cycle facilities have been removed from operation. Europe has been leading the charge, specifically, France (as of 2017, nuclear was 75% of France’s total energy output, 17% of which is recycled nuclear fuel) and Germany.

Talk of a ‘Global Energiewende’ casts a shadow over the world…

This should be of particular concern to Americans given that America had, as of the end of 2017, 99 nuclear reactors at 60 power plants, more than any other country in the world. The energy produced by America’s nuclear reactors (approximately 102 gigawatts) can power 70 million residences. As of 2017, 10 nuclear reactors were decommissioned in the US, with many more slated for future obsolescence. There are numerous reasons for this which range from the fracking boom, climate hysteria driven on by groups such as the IPCC and the burgeoning modernist religion of Envirocracy, vested green-industrial-complex interests, keeping-up-with-the-jonesism, the natural gas boom and a bevvy of crippling regulations on nuclear.

The problems attendant to a global energiewende (German’s moniker for its energy transition plan wherein nuclear and coal plants are phased-out for solar and wind farms) are numerous. In Germany it was disastrous (though it was heralded a success!). Without getting into the intricate details, (a couple of) the principal problems are this:

  1. So-called “clean renewables” are neither “clean” (whatever that is supposed to mean) nor ceaselessly or endlessly “renewable.” Wind and solar energy harvesting systems require resources just like any other form of energy production and furthermore, create by-products. This is not to say that this is bad, but simply to note that the marketing tactics (“go green,” “renewable,” etc) don’t really mean anything. Its pure hype, untethered from factual analysis. Further, when this hyping is conjoined with morally manichean political theologies (such as the Gaia cultism of contemporary environmentalism) it becomes overwhelming anti-dialogical. Every form of energy production, biological or artificial, creates a by-product, which is generally called “pollution.” Thus, where there is no “pollution,” there is no life. Understanding this, it should be shouted from the rooftops: “Pollution is life!” The issue of central concern should not be pollution-as-such, but rather, the threshold(s) of negative pollution (obviously, no one wants to revert back to 19th Century air standards), ie. the point at which a certain amount of pollutants become intolerable to human thriving.
  2. Solar and, particularly, wind, require massive land consumption. To generate the same amount of energy as a contemporary nuclear facility, a wind farm requires 5000x the amount of land. That’s quite considerable!
  3. Wind and solar are intrinsically unreliable, meaning that the inputs (wind and the sun, respectively) cannot be controlled for, whereas, with nuclear, the inputs are completely controlled for, meaning that it is intrinsically reliable. If no wind, no sun, no energy. That’s not a concern with nuclear power.
  4. Perhaps most obscurely – but no less importantly – any significant drop in nuclear interest will see a comparable drop in research into the highly promising field of nuclear fusion. In 2016 German researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Particle Physics saw great success with their initial nuclear fusion experiments utilizing the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator. The magnetic reactor was able to generate the first ever hydrogen plasma, a significant step forwards in nuclear fusion development. Unlike the atomic splitting of nuclear fission (which is used in contemporary nuclear power plants), nuclear fusion (as the name suggests) combines atoms (usually hydrogen ions) and thus generates far greater amounts of energy. It is a shame that climate and “green” (ie. primitivist) energy hysteria have so consistently overshadowed this extremely promising vector of research. For further clarity in understanding just how promising nuclear fusion is, look up at the sun.
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The first plasma achieved with hydrogen within the 170+ million degrees Fahrenheit Wendelstein 7-X reactor. (Credit: IPP).

Sources

  1. https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/11/07/1647102/0/en/Global-Nuclear-Decommissioning-Market-to-2023-Increasing-Decommissioning-of-Nuclear-Power-Plants-Witnessed-in-the-United-States.html
  2. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2016/02/03/germanys-nuclear-fusion-experiment-marks-initial-success/#.W-gt0SOyXIV
  3. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2016/03/23/nuclear-fusion-reactor-research/#.W-gsZCOyXIV
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster
  5. https://book.energytransition.org/sites/default/files/etbook/v2/en/German-Energy-Transition_en.pdf
  6. https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2018/11/Nuclear-Power-Dilemma-full-report.pdf

Writing Prompts 9/10/18 – Energy

prompt #1

There was nothing known not made of energy.


prompt #2

The terrorists hit the power grid, hoping for a revolution, receiving instead only the slow and agonizing death of starvation.


prompt#3

A million gears whirred with a synchronous clattering as the ardent machinist’s great, metal citywalker roared to life and rose up from the ground on legs thick as skyscrapers, smokestacks pumping black daggers to the sky. “It works, it works!”


See if you can use these prompts to make a story of your own and if you do, tag us on Twitter at @KaiterEnless so that we can see and share what you’ve written.

Philosophy Circular 8/18/18

W E E K L Y   P H I L O S O P H Y


ARTICLES

Historian and philosopher Richard Carrier has penned a fascinating article – Could Be A 38% Chance We Are The Only Civilization In The Known Universe – discussing a paper on the possibility of presently existing, otherworldly civilizations, that is EM-radiating societies. Carrier’s principal point of reference is Dissolving The Fermi Paradox by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord of the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. One of the more interesting ideas expounded upon by Carrier is that “maybe civilizations all reach a point when they don’t radiate [signals which are perceptible by instrumentation].” Quite a bit of background in the Drake Equation, the Fermi Paradox and the monograph of Sandberg et al. is required, but for those who take a interest in the extraterrestrial, it is worth combing through the necessary back-catalogue.

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The Drake Paradox is a argument based upon probabilities which seeks – through their utilization – to determine the number of “active” extraterrestrial civilizations within the Milky Way galaxy. The Drake Paradox was formulated by the American astronomer & astrophysicist, Dr. Frank D. Drake.

BOOKS

I have recently finished reading David Peak’s The Spectacle Of The Void (Schism Press, 2014), which, though brisk and, perhaps a little underdeveloped, was a truly fantastic text. The beautifully covered 96 page book principally concerns the inter-relational development of philosophy and horror fiction and why certain forms of fiction “work” in the domain of the macabre, unsettling or terrifying. Through the application of Nietzsche, Bergson, Brassier, Meillassoux, Kristeva and others, Peak examines, sometimes briskly, sometimes in detail, a procession of horror creators such as Dante, Brian Evenson, Roman Polanski, H.P. Lovecraft, John Carpenter, Laird Barron, Georges Bataille and many more. I was pleased to see the film Martyrs (one of the most unnerving films of the 2000s) receiving a sizable and fascinating exegesis in the tome.

voidsphere
“Reality is not what it used to be – this has never not been true.” —David Peak

The general thesis is that the trend in horror has been away from the particular and towards the all-encompassing, from known threats to the unknown. From being-thought-of-as-such to being-without-thought; to encapsulate and instantiate this uncovered progression in horror lit, Peak advances the notion of “the horror reality” (as typified in Martyrs or In The Mouth of Madness) as the new paradigm. It is no longer the masked killer one most fears, or even planetary extinction, it is knowledge itself. Some truths, as they say, are best kept secret. The Spectacle Of The Void is more descriptive than proscriptive and ends without really coming down upon whether the reification of this “horror reality” is bad or seemingly paradoxically, good; that being said, its potency (and utility for writers) lies in its ability to explain why and how a piece of fiction achieved its effect and thus, how one can also do the same. Highly recommended and the best of the week.


VIDEO/AUDIO

Having seemingly shed the rebarbative snake-skin of Randian Objectivism, Alex Epstein continuously impresses me in his on-going discourses upon energy (a subject which has been covered before in-depth on this website) and human-centered thinking. Ever since the 70s, various different “green” or “environmental” movements have sprung up, one of the most profligate (and often implicit, rather than explicit) today is the notion of deep ecology, the idea of the total equalitarian nature of all life on the planet seems to permeate in every single widespread discussion, almost regardless of the initial topic of the discussion itself.

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As a consequence, the centrality of energy infrastructure to civilizational integrity has fallen by the wayside in popular discourse; worse still is the fact that the environment without-us is increasingly becoming the paradigm (which is, I have argued before, intrinsically suicidal), thus, it is extremely refreshing to hear Epstein attempt to reframe the entire discussion in terms of what is good for us, rather than what is good for some nebulous conception such as “mother nature” (blatant anthromorphism) or “the environment” (which is just muddy, as it says nothing about particular ecosystems or indeed, arcosystems). The video below showcases many of Epstein’s central arguments concerning energy and anthropocentrism and was filmed at the 2018 Energy Disruptors conference. Long, but well worth it.

 

“Energy is the industry which powers every other industry.”

– Alex Epstein


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The Image of Man | Specter of Earth (VI)

(a.3) If We Do Nothing | Invariable Extinction (continued from part V)

Whilst it is obvious that the “the world” is not ending in any meaningful, immediate way, despite the doomsaying of catastrophists such as Al Gore and Stephanie Wakefield, the world will, eventually, come to disintegration given sufficient time. Nothing extant is without an end. Even stars perish at the last. Our own sun, no exception to this rule. By aggregate estimate, the average age of a star is predicted to be around several billion years; the precise number of these years is difficult to determine given that celestial burn-out is predicated upon the amount of hydrogen contained within the core of any given celestial body. Our own star – the sun – is classed as a “main sequence” body which describes the fact that it is currently in it’s most stable period wherein it continuously converts it’s hydrogen core into helium. After around 8 billion years of this process the hydrogen will have been exhausted and as a consequence, the helium still in the core will cause the sun to utilize hydrogen outside of the core as a heat source, as this occurs, gravitational forces take over from the burning process thus causing the shell to expand and the surface to cool from white to red; when a star enters this stage it is referred to as a red giant due to it’s sanguine hue and significantly increased size. Given sufficient time this process will bring the red giant into contact with the earth which will swiftly be disintegrated. Before that occurs, however, the heat from the rapidly expanding sun will boil the oceans, causing all water on earth to become trapped in the atmosphere where it will be molecularly splinted by the sun’s energy, causing it to bleed out into the void of space as hydrogen and oxygen, thus leaving a barren, desiccated husk1. Amun-Ra’s wrath. Given that our galaxy is 4.5 billion years old, our sun has exhausted around about half of its total, estimated lifetime, this is to say humans have around 5 to 6.5 billion years left to inhabit the earth before the sun reaches it’s red giant phase2.

Yet even abandoning any concerns about sun-death, humanity, whether collectively or in some portion, will still need to contend with what many environmentalists and scientists have begun referring to as the sixth great extinction event. A research paper published in Science Advances in 2015 by the well known American biologist, Paul R. Ehrlich, and others, comparing past extinction rates to modern extinction rates states that animals are vanishing at a rate unprecedented since the fifth mass extinction period3 which occurred over 66 million years ago4 and brought about an end to the dinosaurs (save for that which became avians). The problem with these studies (and assertions which echo the sentiments contained within such studies) is that it is incredibly difficult to determine, with any accuracy, the rate of extinction of species that no longer exist. Ehrlich notes as much within his study when he writes, “-biologists cannot say precisely how many species there are, or exactly how many have gone extinct in any time interval-5.” He further states what should be obvious to everyone in the proceeding page, “Population extinction cannot be reliably assessed from the fossil record-6” the study also abstains from making any statement on organisms other than vertabrates; “-we have not considered animals other than vertebrates because of data deficiencies-7.” The latter point should also be rather obvious, there are simply too many different species on the planet to plug them all into a extrapolatiing extinction matrix in a 6 page paper. It would be astounding if, say, tardigrades were on the verge of extinction (they aren’t). However, we should not wax whistful about the prospect of extinction as there are decidedly certain types of organisms which we would be better of without. Whilst it is still dubious to classify viruses as a form of life, there are numerous types of viruses, such as HIV8. HIV is but one of many of the genus lentivirus which are, across the board, harmful – and often deadly – to mammalians such as humans, apes, cows and goats. More terrifyingly, viruses of the genus lentivirus can become endogenous to the host, meaning that they can incorporate their genome into the occupied organism’s genome such that the virus will henceforth be inherited by the host’s descendants. Pathogenic bacteria (those types of bacteria which cause disease and death) also occupy a similar position in relation to humans.

A common rebuttal to such a position as that which we have sketched out above is to take aim at centering either one’s personal or societies collective concern on humans-as-such and attempt to deconstruct so-called anthropocentric thinking. But what would it mean to center one’s concerns on anything other than one’s species? At a certain point one would be forced to make the decision between expanding a settlement and displacing some wildlife and simply not expanding and settling at all. If this queer notion had been taken up from the first it is highly unlikely that humanity would share the masterful command over the world that it does to this day. If we had refused to slay a charging beast upon the plains, if we had refused to eat the feral herds, if we had refused to burn the forests and there kindle them a’fire, if we had refused to dam the rivers and drain the swamps and level the land how sleek our chances would have been! How like as not we’d have passed away into the dustbin of history like the Neanderthal and homo erectus before us!

1Nearly all animal species will die once the oceans boil with the possible exception of the tardigrade. Fascinatingly resilient organisms!

2See the work of Enjar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russel, specifically as pertains to the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram.

3K-Pg extinction event which occurred between the Cretaceous and Paleogene epochs and ended 75% of all life on earth.

4Time interval calculated from Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary, Paul R. Renne et al, Science 339, 684, (2013).

5Ceballos et al., Sci. Adv. 2015, p. 3

6Ceballos et al., Sci. Adv. 2015, p. 4

7Ceballos et al., Sci. Adv. 2015, p. 4

8HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.