This is the 4th chapter of a Japanese Science Fiction web novel I am translating about a genius boy who develops amazing technology that changes Japan’s society drastically, eventually resulting in the colonization of outer space.
You can find the original text for this chapter here.
You can see the table of contents for the translated chapters here which includes a synopsis.
As with all other chapters I’ve done so far, I have been in tight communication with the author Tasogarenin, having him review each chapter and provide comments before I post it. In some cases he has suggested minor changes which are not reflective of the original text, so if you happen to be comparing the two keep this in mind.
Note: Feel free to link to this translation, but please do not copy any of the content. If I find that is being done, I will either pursue the site(s) to remove it and/or stop posting this story’s translation to a public location. Thank you.
“Japan: A New Age” by Tasogarenin (黄昏人)
Translated by: Locksleyu (http://selftaughtjapanese.com)
Copyright © 2016 SELFTAUGHTJAPANESE.COM. All Rights Reserved.
Chapter 4: Development Begins
Office of the METI (*) Minister, afternoon that same day
(* METI: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)
General Director Tanaka was in the midst of a discussion with Minister Shintarou Nakane and Vice-Minister Shingo Yamamoto. Minister Nakane was one of the main members of the cabinet, said to be the right-hand man of Prime Minister Ayama, and at 52, he was relatively young for his position. Vice-Minister Yamamoto’s tendency to avoid conflict at all costs made him in some ways like a typical politician, but Director Tanaka judged Mr. Yamamoto’s intellect worthy of his high position.
“I showed Professor Yamanaka of Mizuho Industrial College the research paper, and he seemed very excited about it,” said Director Tanaka. “Apparently he had trouble believing something like this could come from within Japan, and was questioning where the paper had actually originated, but I told him we would discuss that in due time. Judging from his reaction, this is a pretty impressive discovery and has a good chance of becoming reality.”
“Hmm…but this whole thing just seems too good to be true, “ Mr. Nakane interjected. “However, I’ve been getting a bad feeling about the situation in the Middle East, and the price of crude oil has clearly been on the rise lately. For our country, which only has five active nuclear reactors, this does not forebode well. I truly hope that somehow this discovery turns out to be the real thing. By the way, would you mind telling me how you predict this to pan out, given what you know now? I’d like to tell the Prime Minister about this.”
“Of course. I’ll tell you what I can infer at this point, based on what I was told by Dr. Yamato and Dr. Makimura, and the conclusions of a ve
ring held after that.
To begin with, this goes against accepted scientific theories, and while it is being called ‘cold fusion’, it actually works using magnetic fields and pressure, causing a fusion chain reaction by exciting magnetic fields under a special set of conditions. The reaction occurs around 500°C, which is considered ‘room temperature’ compared to a plasma state, which is in the order of several tens of million degrees.
In addition to the relatively low temperature, there are two other things that are unbelievably convenient about this reaction. First, for fuel it does not rely on a hydrogen isotope such as Deuterium or Tritium, but instead leverages simple hydrogen as used in conventional hydrogen vehicles. Furthermore, regarding the energy that is produced, the output of a traditional nuclear generator is heat that needs to be converted to electricity, however in this new reaction electrical power is directly generated. Because of that, fundamentally there are no turbines or other moving parts, and as mentioned previously there is very little heat produced, resulting in an extremely durable system.
The device itself is very simple and compact, leading to low construction costs, and according to Dr. Yamato the smallest unit will generate 100 megawatts with its prototype costing between $10 million to $20 million. Of course, if mass-produced this would likely drop below $10 million. For comparison, nowadays a thermal power generator generating 100 megawatts is said to cost around $80 million. On top of that, fuel for this cold fusion reaction will be only about one gram of hydrogen per hour, versus eight kiloliters of heavy oil for a thermal generator–a drastic reduction.
The current cost of generating power is approximately 6 cents per kilowatt for nuclear, not taking into account disposal of radioactive waste, 6.4 cents for liquefied natural gas, 10 cents for oil, and 6.5 for coal. This new approach works out to below 1 cent per kilowatt. It also has the advantage that we will never run out of fuel.
Indeed, this all sounds too good to be true. But if such a technology were to become a reality, the industrial structure of the world would radically change. It would bring the collapse of the current power industry as we know it.”
At this point, Minister Nakane’s growing excitement had become very apparent.
“This is a once-in-a-millennia chance for our country. I’d like everyone to assume this technology will be realized, and do everything in your power to make that happen.
Also, because of the aforementioned uncertainty about the future of crude oil, I’d like to expedite this project as much as possible. I’ll speak to the Prime Minister and have the government help as much as I can. By the way, is everyone in agreement with making Konan College the central point of this project?”
Mr. Tanaka responded to the Minister’s question. “Yes, as the key person is a child living in Konan City, I think it will be a bit difficult to bring him to somewhere like Tokyo on short notice. Also, while ultimately unable to complete the research on his own, Dr. Makimura of Konan College was the originator of the idea that starting everything.
Moreover, it seems that Dr. Yamato is already in negotiations with him, but the renowned Industrial Engineering Professor Masahiko Yamamura is also working at Konan College. I would feel much better if we can get the supervision of Dr. Yamamura, who has worked on a wide variety of development projects with Yotusbishi Industries–that just happens to have a major factory located in Konan city.”
“Agreed,” said the Minister. “After all, that’s the path of least resistance. By the way, how are things going with our boy genius?”
“Publicly, our goal is to make it appear as if he is simply transferring into the elementary school associated with Konan College,” Mr. Tanaka responded. “But in reality he will begin visiting several of the laboratories there. Vice-Minister Yamamoto in currently in discussions with MEXT (*) regarding this matter.”
(* MEXT = Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)
Vice-Minister Yamamoto nodded and went on to explain. “We have already spoken with Vice-Minister Kamimoto and reached an agreement with him. However, we would like Minister Nakane to have a discussion about this with MEXT Minister Shirota.
In addition, regarding the financial backing of this project, because of the available subsidies for the development of new technology in the private sector, we should be able to acquire at least $20 million easily. If things work out, spending the money won’t be a problem, and even if things don’t go as planned, since we have the approval of the influential people in academia, we’ll be able to make any problems disappear.”
“Understood. For funding please do as needed. I will speak with Mr. Shirota at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting. I’m really hoping things work out. Maybe we can all have a toast today. Mr. Yamamoto, Mr. Tanaka, what do you think?” asked the Minister.
“Of course, we would be honored to accompany you,” said the Vice-Minister and General Director.
A little before 5pm in the evening that day, Dr. Makimura received a call from Mrs. Hidaka on his cell phone while he was in the research lab.
“Sir, I have made dinner preparations for tonight. What did Dr. Yamato say?”
“It seems like he will be able to make it,” said Dr. Makimura. “I apologize for the last minute addition, but I also invited Industrial Engineering Professor Yamamura from our college’s Engineering Department.”
“It would be great to have Dr. Yamamura join us. Of course he is welcome to come.
I hope you don’t mind that I invited Mr. Yoshitake, Section Chief from our Konan office.
The location is a place called Yuraku in Konohana City. Are you familiar with it?” asked Mrs. Hidaka.
“Yes, I am. So we are good for 6 pm, right?” Dr. Makimura confirmed.
“Yes, I’ll see you then.”
On a few occasions Dr. Makimura had been to Yuraku, a long-established Japanese restaurant. Professor Yamato and Dr. Makimura met up on campus, boarded a taxi waiting for them and then headed to the bustling streets of Konohana City. When they arrived at Yuraku, they were lead by the restaurant’s host Mr. Nakai into a tatami reception room deep in the building. When they opened the sliding doors, they were greeted by Mrs. Hidaka and a man wearing a grey suit who looked around 40.
“We have been expecting you,” said the man. “Please have a seat.” Dr. Yamato and Dr. Makimura did as requested and sat comfortably, after which the man introduced himself.
“Nice to meet you. I am Junya Yoshitake from METI’s Konan office. I think in the coming months we will be spending a great deal of time together, and I look forward to working with everyone.”
“Hello, I’m Naomi Hidaka and am honored to have been assigned to work at Konan College. Dr. Yamato and Dr. Yamamura, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Hi, I’m Yamato. I’m really looking forward to working on what we guess we can call a ‘project’.”
(If you are reading this on a site besides selftaughtjapanese.com, it has been illegally copied!)
“Hi, I am Yamamura from the Industrial Engineering department. Until I joined academia, I was the lead of various development projects, but this is the first time I have been involved in one this important. I’d like to work together closely with everyone, and if possible have a great time doing it.”
“I’m Makimura. My field of expertise is theoretical science and I have no experience with developing hardware, but I’ll try to avoid getting in everyone’s way. I’m looking forward to working with you all.”
After a few minutes of beer and small talk, Dr. Yamato addressed the group. “For the project proposal, I’d like Mrs. Hidaka to lead the effort and work together with Dr. Makimura to draft it up quickly. Is everyone in agreement?”
“Yes sir, I will do my best under Dr. Makimura’s guidance,” Mrs. Hidaka answered.
Dr. Yamato chimed in next. “In parallel with the proposal we’ll have to work on the system design. For the time being, I’d like Dr. Yamamura to lead the conceptual and core design work on our college campus. However, since a portion of the work involves CAD, if possible I’d prefer to enlist an expert CAD engineer from your ministry. I’d be glad to search for this person myself if we have the requisite financial backing.”
“Yes, we have actually already begun to reach out to private companies in search of a specialist,” said Mrs. Hidaka. “However, in terms of convenience, if it is not a problem I would feel much better if you coordinated that. Regarding funding, I’ve heard that things have been arranged with our Vice-Minister’s agreement.”
“Alright,” said Dr. Yamato. “In that case we will begin preparations for the design work tomorrow. By the way, I was hoping that I could meet with the boy’s family soon and get him enrolled in the college in some form or another.”
“Yes, we are already in talks with MEXT on that matter as well. I think it should be safe to proceed on your end,” answered Mrs. Hidaka.
“I also had a talk with the General Director on this matter,” Section Chief Yoshitake added to the discussion. “He expressed that the Minister had high expectations for this project, and that the Prime Minister himself would be informed soon.
As you all know, there is much concern for the sudden jump in energy prices, such as crude oil, that have been seen recently, and since our country has not made much progress with bringing our nuclear reactors back online, this is very disturbing news.”
Dr. Yamamura spoke with a hint of sarcasm. “You know, once things get started, shit is really going to hit the fan. To begin with, the nuclear plants are nothing but piles of scrap metal. Also, business for the current generator manufacturers is horrible, and there are many coal or crude oil related companies which are virtually bankrupt.”
“I am fully aware of that,” said Mr. Yoshitake. “The repayment of the nuclear reactor loans is a serious concern, but because the facility costs for this new system will be less than 20% of the current facilities, there will be little direct effect on the GDP. Furthermore, since the generation process uses only hydrogen, we can simply supply water as an input and decompose that into hydrogen internally. Essentially, the burden–or shall I say cost–on society for power generation will be drastically lowered.
However, because of the many advantages compared to traditional power generation, rather than a gradual ramp-up I wouldn’t be surprised if the transition to this new power source happened at an unprecedented pace. We can also expect a similarly large demand for this system.
Just considering power generation, assuming our country can currently provide 200 million gigawatts and the new system will cost at least $200 per kilowatt, a demand in the order of $40 billion will quickly emerge. Also, from what I have heard, by making a minor change to the system which extracts power from the generator, a compressed, portable form of electrical energy can be created, which will likely translate to inexpensive electric cars in the near future.
In addition, because the cost of electricity will be one fifth of the current rate, manufacturing facilities such as factories will undergo large scale retooling. New industries which leverage this inexpensive power will also begin cropping up very quickly. Fortunately, many of the people of our country have a good amount of disposable income, thus there isn’t much need to borrow from banks, preventing us from escaping deflation. In such a climate, a situation will emerge where investment in power generation facilities is guaranteed to return a nice profit.
Without a doubt, this will result in a major economic boom.
Compared to this, I feel that the loss from the defaulted nuclear loans will be insignificant.”
Dr. Yamamura turned to Mr. Yoshitake. “I see METI has also done its homework. I completely agree with your conclusions. I’ll do everything I can to make this happen as soon as possible,” Dr. Yamamura said and shook Mr. Yoshitake’s hand.
“By the way, maybe it’s about time to stop calling this technology using vague terms and think of a proper name for it,” said Dr. Yamato.
“I think ‘fusion reactor’ has a nice ring to it,” said Mrs. Hidaka.
“I think we should respect the lady’s opinion. That name is fine with me,” said Dr. Yamato. The rest of the group agreed. “Alright, it’s final!”
“So the project name will be ‘Fusion Reactor Development Project’. Publicly, we can just call it ‘The FR Project’ ,” Dr. Yamato concluded.
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