Friday, June 24, 2005


Well, let's see... What have I done since the last time I posted... Did I mention the nuclear emergency response center? I went there two days ago, then yesterday I visited GNF-J (Global Nuclear Fuel Japan), the reason they have a response center in Yokosuka. There aren't any nuclear power plants here in Yokosuka. GNF takes Uranium (I think most of it is from spent fuel already used in plants once) and processes it into pellets that are then loaded into rods. I am not sure I would have understood completely if the explanation was in English, but I had a presentation, a video, and a tour of the plant all in Japanese, so I have an extremely vague idea of what they do there. I also signed a confidentiality agreement not to disclose any technical secrets, but I don't think they need to worry about that. I have loaded a few pictures from the visitor room where they allow pictures, including one of a model fuel-rod thingy. I don't think I'm violating any UN or IAEA regulations by loading them on flickr.

Anyway, after that I went to visit a rescue team. These guys are primarily here for responding to domestic disasters, but they are also designated by the national government to be on alert and ready to be at Tokyo/Narita airport within 24 hours for dispatch to disasters abroad. They did not go to the recent tsunami disaster because there are four such groups in Kanagawa and they rotate availability for deployment throughout the month and they were not 'it' when the tsunami hit. They were really nice guys and showed me their NBC (Nuclear Biological and Chemical) response equipment, let me play with the jaws of life, and let me put on part of the suit for responding to a disaster. It was too hot to put the whole thing on.

The director (I don't remember his name right now) was really nice and started out trying to explain things in English. When he didn't know something and realized I knew enough Japanese, he started mixing English and Japanese. He spent most of the time showing me around and explaining things in a combination of broken English and broken Japanese. I think part of this was for my benefit, but for a large part, it just seemed like he wished he could speak English. After showing me all the equipment, they got me a Pepsi and we sat down and chatted for an hour or so. It was a nice break.

So anyway, this morning, I spent the day in the Fire Bureau's 119 headquarters. In Japan 110 is the number for the police and 119 is fire and ambulance. I got a detailed explanation of the updated system (it's only about 3 years old), the city's wireless communication systems, and mutual aid agreements Yokosuka has with the prefecture and other cities. After lunch, two of the guys drove me to the top of the second tallest mountain in the city to show me the antenna they use to coordinate wireless communications between mountains. Great scenery, but today is really hazy, so you really can't see too much.

Anyway, they gave me an hour break because they all think I'm exhausted from running around all week (which is very close to the truth) and they don't have anything for me until 3:45. I then go to talk with the director of the Fire Bureau to say goodbye and thanks for the wonderful week. I never imagined I would see so much in one week! It really has been incredible.

After that, I have to go meet the deputy mayor. There's a new intern that came to Yokosuka last night from Korea. He's a veterinarian, but I'm not sure what he's studying here. We both get to meet the politician, then I'm off to Gunma to see friends and former students I haven't seen since the last time I was in Japan 2 years ago. It's supposed to be hotter there than it is here, and I have to get around on a bicycle, so if I don't sweat to death, I'll be posting again soon.

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