This is my translation of the 8th chapter of a Science Fiction novel about a boy genius who helps develop groundbreaking technologies that change Japan’s society drastically, eventually resulting in the colonization of outer space.
I had taken a break from translating this series, but due to popular demand I have decided to translate this chapter and potentially more. If you want more of this story please consider commenting, liking, or voting for the story on this survey.
You can find the original Japanese text for this chapter here.
You can see a table of contents with links to all the translated chapters here, including a synopsis. If you haven’t read the previous chapters, I highly recommend reading them first as this story is a little tricky to jump in the middle of.
Because of unauthorized copying of earlier chapters, I had released a few chapters in PDF format. However, due to complains about the embedded viewer I have decided to release this chapter in regular textual format. I prefer the content is not copied to other sites, but if you do copy the translation please put a link back to this site. If uncrediting copying occurs again I may have to go back to PDFs.
If you enjoyed this translation and want to support my past and future efforts, please consider purchasing one of the E-books I have translated:
- “Two of Six: A Captain’s Dilemma” [modern SF novella about human worth and artificial intelligence]
- Read the first few pages of it here.
- “Eighteen O’ Clock Music Bath” [classic SF novella that was one of the first Japanese dystopian works]
Chapter 8: Construction Begins
(Translation Copyright © 2018 SelfTaughtJapanese.com)
On October 8th, a meeting was held at METI (*). Minister Nakane himself hosted it.
(*) Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry
Attending from Konan college were Professor Yamato, Professor Yamamura, head of motors Professor Sano from mechanical engineering, and Professor Mizutani. Ten people joined from METI including the vice minister, three from MLIT (*), two from EPA (**), two from MOF (***), four academic experts from Konan, as well as two others. Director Tanaka acted as chairman of the meeting.
(*) MLIT: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism
(**) EPA: Economic Planning Agency
(***) MOF: Ministry of Finance
“I would like to thank all of you for attending today.
“As you know, this meeting’s purpose is to establish operative priorities for the construction of the fusion reactor. I’d like to have the minister begin the discussion,” said the chairman to kick off the meeting.
The minister spoke. “The information made public by the prime minister has spread throughout the world and has clearly had a serious effect on oil-producing nations in particular.”
“Yet, at the present time, the price of petroleum is not falling; instead––perhaps in a short-term rush––we are seeing aggressive behavior by many of the suppliers. Based on the current state of the market we will be forced to purchase a very high price, but we would like to leverage our 180-day stockpile and somehow avoid such a large expenditure.
“Therefore, we have set up this meeting today because of the desire to rapidly roll out not only the nuclear fusion generator, but also the super battery and motor technologies. I would like to have everyone’s cooperation with these matters.”
“Thank you, Minister Nakane,” said the chairman. “Next I would like to hear from Professor Yamamura about the progress of the standard designs, as well as the estimated completion times for each reactor size. Professor?”
“We have completed 100-megawatt, 500-megawatt, and one-gigawatt standard designs,” explained the professor. “Each of these will fundamentally fit in a rectangular area, with the 100-megawatt utilizing a steel frame, and the other two a concrete base. Regarding the dimensions, as you can see in the report I have passed out, the one-gigawatt design will be 30 by 20 meters. So regardless of where it is built, I think there shouldn’t be any problems acquiring the necessary land. There are a large number of off-the-shelf components, but also many parts that require custom manufacturing, such as the reactor itself. Hence, while the completion date will be influenced by the custom components, the on-the-shelf parts may also become a limiting factor due to available inventory or production times.
“As you can see in the report, I have made the assumption that the construction will leverage two shifts a day, with all purchasing and manufacture of parts being undertaken with the highest possible priority. Assuming that we carry out the construction with shifts comprised of the most capable people, we conclude that the one-gigawatt version will take eight months. This is the best we can do.
“Furthermore, with the help of METI we’ve gathered 100 engineers who are now in training, and as a part of that we’re having them create purchasing orders and specifications based on the completed standard design blueprints and technical specifications. Despite being outside of their areas of expertise, these people are quite accustomed to this sort of work. Because many of them are outstanding engineers, I think putting them in charge of the engineering portion of the construction would be quite possible. Their training will last one month, and at the end of that their respective assignments will be decided upon. For the one-gigawatt model, we will have each team complete the ordering process, and then while overseeing the production of custom parts they will make on-site preparations, being dispatched to each electric power company’s site to carry out the construction effort once the materials and machinery are available.
“The first team will be tasked with the construction of the one-gigawatt fusion reactor at eight sites, with ten people per site. Twenty people will work at Yotsubishi Industry’s Konan factory on the manufacture of twenty self-contained 100-megawatt units. These will be assembled at temporary facilities on an area of land facing the factory’s port and transported via ship. We predict that the first lot of 20 units will be completed in roughly a half year.
“Therefore, for the one-gigawatt reactor initially eight units will begin construction in parallel, but once the training of the 100 engineers is complete, 20 people will be working on twenty 100-megawatt units and 80 people on eight one-gigawatt fusion reactions. For the time being, five training sessions will be held in Konan city; after that they will be sent on-site, 10 at a time, for on the job training. According to this plan, the construction of the fusion reactors will begin in November and the initial eight one-gigawatt units will go online between August and September of next year, with another eight being completed a month after that; by the end of next year, there should be 40 units running. It is estimated that by the following year, nearly 200 units will be online, providing 200 gigawatts of power––enough to match our country’s current power needs.
“Additionally, the 100-megawatt units will generally be employed in places like aluminum factories and will be installed in locations where smaller generators are needed due to power grid limitations. By sometime next year we expect 150 units to be available.”
“Thank you for the extremely detailed report. Minister, I assume this plan is acceptable to you,” the chairman confirmed.
“Yes, thank you very much Professor Yamamura. This is a very difficult thing for me to say, but I would like you to be the overall leader of this construction effort. I have searched far and wide but have failed to find anyone of your caliber––although many people said they would love to work under you,” said the minister apologetically.
“What, me? Well…I guess there’s no turning back now. Sure, I’ll manage things until the end of next year. After that, I would like someone to take over who has been trained in the meantime,” answered Professor Yamamura.
“Of course! Thank you very much. Let’s go with that plan. I’m glad things turned out this way,” said the minister with a smile.
Director Tanaka also expressed his thanks. “Thank you very much, professor.
“Well then, as for the matter of location selection, inoperative nuclear power plants are already equipped with the necessary power transmission facilities, so I recommend making it our policy to give them first priority. Is everyone in agreement on this?”
“Yes,” everyone said.
Having obtained agreement, he continued. “As for the order of construction, for the first eight units we can start with TEPCO’s (*) Fukushima plant. This is to dispel criticism, but also because of the need to use electric power there due to concerns about radiation. Next would be the one in Kashiwazaki, also owned by TEPCO, followed by…”
(*) Tokyo Electric Power Company
“I have no objections about the first eight units,” commented professor Yamamura after Director Tanaka finished speaking. “However, I do have a request. We will be putting an engineer in charge of construction at each plant, but is it truly necessary to leave the management up to someone from an electric company? I would like you to give full authority for anything related to the construction to the head engineer at that site. Please provide sufficient funding and give decision-making authority to that person. Finally, I would like full cooperation from the electric companies with respect to communications, vehicles, and setting up the first office.
“Understood. I’ll put pressure on the electric companies,” responded the chairman. “I’m sorry to trouble you, but do you mind putting those requirements down on paper?
“In addition, as was just mentioned, on account of the radiation problems at the Fukushima reactor, there is no end in sight to the contamination. After consulting about this with Junpei Yoshigawa and Professor Makimura––who have developed a new theory of the atom––I was told that a new solution has come to light. Essentially, disposal facilities must be built in tandem with the fusion reactor. However, at the present the power consumption required for these facilities is great so they should begin operation once the reactor comes online.
“Let’s see…next is the matter of converting cars to use an electric drive through the use of the super battery and motor. People have started calling these the ‘S-type battery’ and ‘S-type motor.’ Are we all in agreement on using these names going forward? I see we are.
“Alright, I’ll let Professor Sano or Professor Mizutani speak next.”
“I’ll speak from the perspective of automobile engineering,” said Professor Sano.
“Please refer to the report that I have prepared. The theory behind the S-type battery and motor is now fully established and scheduled to be published in academic papers this year, including those from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and automobile associations, as well as several international journals.”
“On the topic of the battery, the internals of the device have been finalized and the optimal layout and enclosure have been determined, resulting in the completion of three prototypes: 10, 100, and 1000 kilowatt-hour models. The largest of these will have a weight of 10 kilograms and dimensions of 30 by 40 centimeters, with a height of 30 centimeters. The price is estimated to be around $100.“
The room stirred with voices of surprise.
Professor Sano continued. “For the time being, we are considering standardizing five types, with the 1000 kilowatt-hour device being the largest.
“On the other hand, the design of the S-type battery prohibits charging using a standard electric power supply and must be excited at the factory. Hence, as announced at METI, the batteries will be exchanged at places similar to gas stations.
“The excitation will use electricity but will only consume 10 kilowatt-hours for the one-gigawatt unit, and besides the electricity there will be very little extra cost. For the largest unit, the cost for a single exchange will likely be in the range of $20-$30. For rollout, we will first need to prepare the production system. Leveraging an existing battery manufacturer for this is desirable, and with METI’s assistance we have contracted engineers and given them details on the production facilities.
“We’ve heard that because of the extreme urgency of this matter, the manufacturers have already begun repairing factories and ordering equipment; based on current information, mass production should begin next spring.
“For the S-type motor, it has been decided to similarly rely on existing manufacturers, and preparations have begun there as well. The heavy usage of aluminum necessitates tight cooperation with aluminum manufacturers, but the S-type motor is expected to begin mass production in around three months. Automobile manufacturers have also been included in the discussions, and despite the small unit count it appears that mass production of the electric cars will continue as normal, without any major problems foreseen. Assuming that we work together with the battery and motor manufacturers and finalize the model, a car fitted with the S-type battery and motor will likely appear next spring.
“In addition, there is a need to create battery-excitation factories across the country. These will be similar to 100-megawatt nuclear fusion generators. The design is complete and we are expecting the construction of 50 locations by next spring, and 200 by the end of next year. We are relying on a petroleum distributor for construction and operations.”
The meeting went on for another hour, including questions, before it ended.
Minister Nakane was greatly satisfied with the result of the meeting, especially the unexpected progress.
Kenji Sayama was a 45-year-old engineer at Miyota Engineering and manager of the construction planning department of the company’s facilities section. With five years of overseas experience, he had dedicated his career exclusively to the construction, upgrading, and repair of petrochemical plants.
However, his discussion with prime minister Ayama on September 10th was a complete nightmare. The industry he had worked in so passionately––which he believed had such promise––was going to disappear. More accurately, rather than disappear it would be reduced to a fifth of its current size with a meager profit. The prime minister said the country would enact relief measures, but Kenji didn’t want to continue a job he couldn’t have pride in.
His desk phone rang. “This is Kumida, secretary of Senior Director Yamashita. If you are available, I would like you to come to the director’s office in 15 minutes.”
Wondering what this was about, Kenji responded. “Yes, I will be there.”
After a few uncomfortable minutes, he stood up and went to knock on the senior director’s first-floor office
“Come in.” The secretary opened the door, motioned Kenji in, and then opened the inner door.
“Senior director,” the secretary called out. “Section Manager Sayama is here.”
Inside the inner office, besides Senior Director Yamashita and Section Manager Shou Yamada––Kenji’s good friend who was one year his junior––there were two others sitting in the room: Shibata and Yoshiyasu, both engineers and assistant section managers with roughly 3-4 years less time in the company than Kenji.
“Thanks. Sorry to bother you at such a busy––actually, I guess at the moment you aren’t that busy. Especially after that talk with the prime minister,” said Director Yamashita as he glanced around at everyone.
“Actually, just a week ago I got a request from METI; as a result, next week we’re going to send 20 people from our company to Konan City.”
He continued as the others stared in shock. “This is one of the topics the prime minister spoke about yesterday. It seems the nuclear fusion reactor has become a reality.
“The specifications are in line with what the prime minister said and the papers reported on. Our company is going to lose petroleum fuel work, our bread and butter. But in exchange, the government wants to take engineers from companies related to petroleum––petrochemical companies like ours, generator manufacturers, nuclear generator manufacturers––and have them help with the construction of the new nuclear fission reactor, what they seem to be calling the ‘FR device.’
“The government intends to replace conventional electric power generators with this new technology as quickly as possible. Since the power output provided by Japan’s current power generators is approximately 200 gigawatts, 200 one-gigawatt fusion reactors will be necessary. Also, if the price of electricity is cut in half or a third, power consumption will naturally increase, so in the end 300 reactors may be needed. Regardless, you guys are going to be in charge of this construction. Our company will probably profit from the order of a handful of units.
“For the short term, you’ll be receiving training and attending classes in Konan College in Konan City, for a period of one month. Immediately thereafter, each of you will be appointed responsibility for a specific reactor and begin construction. For the initial pre-construction work we’ll have you gather people in this company and create purchasing orders and specifications while following up with the custom part manufacture, going on-site once things are ready. Please be aware that the construction is expected to last under a year.
“There will be 10 people leading the reactor construction efforts and participating in the training workshop. But for the construction itself, of course we can hire as many staff and workers as necessary. If possible, during the training period I would like you to extract the necessary staff from our company. I will try to honor your requests whenever possible. Furthermore, the suppliers for this project will be electric companies, but unlike normal operation, estimates will not be needed. There’s an agreement in place whereby any costs accrued will be paid back at a later date.”
The group of engineers looked at each other, and then Kenji spoke. “This is great news. By the way, roughly how much will a one-gigawatt fusion reactor cost to build?”
“They’re saying it will be around 100 million dollars––a reasonable amount since the 100-megawatt reactor will cost no more than 18 million to develop. It will apparently sit upon a 20 by 30 meter concrete base,” said Yamashita.
The young Shibata spoke with a concerned look. “But the moment construction completes we’ll have no jobs.”
Yamashita responded. “That’s true, there is that concern. But there are upgrades to take care of, and construction work overseas will be enormous. I think this will give us a future. We also heard from a petroleum distributor that the new type of battery mentioned by the prime minister will not charge using a regular flow of electricity; it will instead be excited by something like a 100-megawatt fusion reactor. These will have to be created all throughout the country. Eventually, there will be three to five charging stations in each of the 47 prefectures of Japan. I’ve heard they’re giving the construction and operation of these to the petroleum distributors, and we’ve been asked to help. As you can see, I think a lot of demand will be generated from all this.”
Kenji traveled with Shou and the others to Konan City where they lived in a hotel and spent their days commuting to Konan College, ten minutes away via car.
During training they learned the necessary theory and information about the new systems in a classroom setting, but once they were given blueprints for the standard designs the work was nothing nearly as complex or as large-scale as a petroleum plant; it was more like regular plant work. They were divided into groups based on company and immediately began work on discussing the designs and drafting detailed drawings. Fortunately, everyone was extremely capable and after a month the purchasing order specifications and diagrams were mostly complete. Except for the budgetary paperwork and machinery costs, which hadn’t yet been estimated, even the construction preparations themselves were nearly finished.
The core part of the reactor was designed to use a 7 m diameter cylinder made from 20 mm thick SUS316 stainless steel––nothing particularly complex––and the electron gun and magnetic field generator used for the exciter apparatus were not particularly large or uncommon. Special expertise was apparently needed to bring the apparatus online; the control equipment will be put into a black box, which no one can operate except Professors Yamato, Yamamura, and Associate Professor Makimura.
During the training there was a discussion about a device used to decontaminate radioactivity, and apparently a small prototype has already been created and transported to Fukushima where it is performing well. It essentially utilizes the excitation of a fusion reaction. By changing the conditions of the excitation slightly, unstable substances that radiate energy like gamma waves can be stabilized. However, unlike a fusion reactor there is no chain reaction, so a large amount of electricity is consumed. Industrial scale decontamination of radioactive water is straightforward: simply pass it quickly through a ring within a reactor in the excited state. Similarly, radioactively contaminated items such as soil and machinery just need to be passed through a large, electrically excited cylinder. However, the power consumption required would be 50 megawatts for water and 150 megawatts for solid objects, so normally those processes would begin after the initial one-gigawatt reactor comes online. But because of the urgent need expressed by the government, the Fukushima reactor installation team is planning to install their decontamination machinery ahead of time.
One month later, everyone gathered at the college’s small auditorium for the graduation ceremony. There Professor Yamamura, the chairman of the training workshop, gave a speech.
“Everyone, I’d like to thank you for all your hard work this month.
“This is the first time that the other instructors and I have actually taught a group of people like yourselves, engineers with a great deal of real-world experience. The training took a process of trial-and-error, and I felt it was us instructors who were actually being taught; as a group, we ended up doing preparations for the fusion reactor’s construction as opposed to a simple training workshop. It’s likely that once each of you receives your assignment and budget arrangements are complete, you will immediately begin the ordering process. Thank you again for all your efforts here. This formally ends your training.
“I will now announce each of your assignments.”
Kenji and the others, a total of 20 people from Miyota Engineering, were tasked to construct a pair of one-gigawatt fusion reactors in Kashiwazaki.
That night, at a party in a hotel downtown, everyone got some rest and recovery.
As Kenji sipped at a beer, he reflected with satisfaction about the events of the last month, which had gone by so quickly.
==== END OF CHAPTER ====
If you enjoyed this translation, please consider purchasing one of my E-books, two of which are listed below:
- “Two of Six: A Captain’s Dilemma” [a modern SF novella about human value and artificial intelligence]
- Read the first few pages of it here.
- “Eighteen O’ Clock Music Bath” [a classic SF novella that was one of the first Japanese dystopian works]