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[Waseda University Public Relations Magazine "Northwest Wind" Special Project]
Round-Table Discussion among Scientists

Responsibility of science, mission of Waseda (second installment)

The unprecedented large-scale disaster of the Great East Japan Earthquake has also led to questions regarding the form of research and education at universities. In order to conduct research which meets the rapidly changing needs of society, the Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering utilizes the spirit of innovation and scale merit of a comprehensive science university which conducts research in a variety of scientific fields. After experiencing such a large-scale disaster, what is expected of advanced science? What actions should be taken? In order to examine such questions, Senior Dean Hiroshi Yamakawa moderated a discussion among three researchers.

(*Printed in the 2011 editions of the Waseda University Public Relations Magazine "Northwest Wind." Readers of Northwest Wind should begin reading from the second installment.)


Hiroshi Yamakawa
Senior Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Professor, Modern Mechanical Engineering Course, Graduate School of Creative Science and Engineering / Department of Modern Mechanical Engineering, School of Creative Science and Engineering

In 1970, graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Department at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. In 1975, completed the Doctoral Program of the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. Has served as Professor at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, since 1983. Appointed as Dean of the School of Creative Science and Engineering in 2007. Areas of expertise include design engineering, structural control and vibration, and structural analysis/optimization.
Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, as Senior Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, has worked to unify faculty projects related to earthquake disaster. Actively transmits research results related to disaster prevention, nuclear power, energy conservation and reconstruction.
In particular, the Nishi-Waseda Campus where the Faculty of Science and Engineering is located has set a goal of reducing peak energy consumption by 20% compared to the previous year. The campus has engaged in various energy-saving activities.

Shigeru Satoh
Professor, Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Creative Science and Engineering / Department of Architecture, School of Creative Science and Engineering

In 1973, graduated from the Department of Architecture at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. In 1975, completed the Master's Program of the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. Founded the Shigeru Satoh Laboratory in 1984. Conducts research on town-building and performs advance recovery town-building through cooperation with local communities. Has served as Chairperson of the Architectural Institute of Japan since May 2011.
Areas of expertise include urban design and planning. As a practical town-building and community-building project, conducts advance recovery town-building through cooperation with the district council in Shinjuku Ward. Also conducts town-building in the Hase region of Nara Prefecture through cooperation with local municipal governments, citizen organizations and functional organizations.
Following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, stationed himself with his laboratory in Noda-Hokubu district in Kobe. For approximately 18 months, recorded and research the recovery process of the town. Currently, he draws upon his past experience to develop recovery support activities while also researching town-planning which enables response to major earthquakes in the future.

Tomoya Shibayama
Professor, Construction Engineering Course, Graduate School of Creative Science and Engineering / Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Creative Science and Engineering

In 1977, graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Tokyo. In 1979, completed the Master's Program of the Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo. In 1985, acquired his PhD (doctoral degree by thesis) in engineering from the University of Tokyo. Served as Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo and Professor at Yokohama National University before assuming his current position in 2009. Chairperson of the Committee on Ocean Engineering, Japan Society of Civil Engineers.
Areas of expertise include disaster prevention in coastal regions, water engineering, coastal engineering, engineer ethics and social systems, and systems development theory for developing countries. His research theme consists of analyzing the contents of disasters and using analysis results to formulate community-based strategies for lessening disasters.
After the recent Great East Japan Earthquake, served as leader of the Waseda University survey team which was deployed by the Japan Society of Civil Engineers. The team surveyed regions which were struck by the tsunami. Then, an image of the earthquake was reconstructed by using two methods consisting of 1) survey results and 2) replication of the tsunami using numerical simulations. Currently using information gained from these activities in order to conduct research for lessening the effect of future disasters.

Shinichi Iwamoto
Professor, Electrical Engineering and Bioscience Course, Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering / Department of Electrical Engineering and Bioscience, School of Advanced Science and Engineering

In 1971, graduated from the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Waseda University School of Science and Engineering. In 1978, completed the Doctoral Program of the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. Holds a PhD in engineering. Served as Assistant Professor at the Tokai University School of Engineering and as Associate Professor at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, before assuming his current position in 1986. Chairperson of the Electric Power System Council of Japan, Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan.
Areas of expertise include mathematical programming, electric power circuits, electric system engineering and power system theory. As part of power system deregulation and the implementation of renewable energies, conducts research on methods for stable power supply and methods for introduction of new energy/stored energy to electrical systems.
Regarding the recent Great East Japan Earthquake, focuses on power issues arising as a result of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Provides proposals related to power transmission mechanisms and the ideal forms of power companies. Through media appearances and lectures, continues to appeal to the general public the importance of possessing correct knowledge regarding power issues in Japan.

Explaining disaster risk to society

To continue, I would like to ask Professor Shibayama about this risk of tsunamis. If an earthquake occurs directly under Tokyo, will a tsunami hit Tokyo Bay? There are many thermal power plants along Tokyo Bay. Currently, nuclear reactors are being shut down one after another, and damage to the power plants along Tokyo Bay would make supplying power extremely difficult.


If an earthquake occurs directly under the area north of Tokyo Bay, I think that the area will be hit by a tsunami of about 1 meter and 50 centimeters. When the ground shifts due to an earthquake, storm surge barriers will also be destroyed. As a result, water will probably flow into the city. Assuming such a case, it is predicted that the bay area will suffer great damage. Thermal power plants are no exception.


I see. In recent years, thermal power plants conduct combined cycle generation, a technology which combines gas turbines and steam turbines. In order to cool the steam, sea water is essential for this method of generation. This is the reason that there is a high concentration of thermal power plants along the bay. Let me ask you another question. Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, the chance of an earthquake occurring at the location of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant was zero percent. Why?


Basically, I think that a sufficient tsunami survey had not been conducted for that region. For example, data used to predict the occurrence of tsunamis did not include the Jogan Earthquake, which is said to have occurred in the Tohoku region during the early Heian Period. Unfortunately, when a normal prediction was made without including such data, it was determined that a giant tsunami would probably not strike the region.


Recently, Japan has started conducting surveys of soil layers in order to research tsunamis. I have heard that such surveys show that a majority of regions have been hit by tsunamis.


That's right. The surveying of soil layers had been debated at the research level from ten years ago. However, action never advanced to the point where actual surveys were conducted. Since sufficient surveys have never been conducted, I believe that there are a great number of regions in Japan which are mistakenly thought to have never been struck by tsunamis. To a certain extent, surveying soil layers will reveal whether or not an area has been hit by a tsunami. As a result, sediment surveys for tsunamis are now been revised throughout Japan.


Earthquake risk in the construction field focuses on long period ground motion, which refers to tremors in long cycles of approximately 2 to 20 seconds. It is thought that such tremors may damage even skyscrapers and earthquake-proof structures which are considered to possess strong seismic resistance. Currently, research is being conducted regarding such tremors. Actually, the Architectural Institute of Japan held a press conference regarding the danger of long period ground motion. The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred the following week.


In terms of electrical power, my greatest concern is dropout (failure) of generators due to another earthquake. During the Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake, the frequency of the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station rapidly fell from the normal level of 50 hertz per 10 seconds to 49.17 hertz. When the frequency falls below 49 hertz, generators are forcibly stopped due to what is known as load rejection. Currently, there is not a sufficient reserve of generated power, and such a scenario would result in large-scale blackouts. Furthermore, generators which experienced load rejection could not be used for a considerable period of time. It deeply worries me that anti-nuclear power sentiment is rising even while such concerns exist. While it would be acceptable to gradually move away from nuclear power, current plans call for stopping operation at all nuclear power plants by next spring.


Until now, it has been said that Japan was a safe country which offers peace of mind. However, it turns out that we actually have not created such a safe society. Due to the recent earthquake, normal citizens have also realized that peace of mind is not possible under such conditions. In the future, specialists will most likely give thorough explanations to citizens regarding areas where danger exists. Japanese citizens have a high level of scientific knowledge. I am sure that they will understand if we give a thorough and well-thought-out explanation.

Conveying information and cultivating professionals is our true mission.

Amidst a society which contains such risks, what do you think that Waseda University should do in the future?


We need to conduct more and more programs like the overnight survey which Professor Shibayama just described. If students conducting research in different fields have the opportunity to conduct exchanges and act together, I believe that we can convey comprehensive information which will be of benefit to society. For example, after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, our research team was stationed in the disaster area together with a documentary film crew. For approximately three years, we recorded the recovery process of the town. The video which was made would be of use to researches, municipal government and citizens who are working to recover from the recent earthquake. However, we currently lack a platform for releasing the video.


Creating such a platform is a major role of our university, isn't it?


Yes, I think so. Some of the students stationed in disaster areas after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake are now working in Tohoku as researchers involved in recovery and town-building. The video to which I just referred was extremely useful to these researchers, helping them to create a rough image of the recovery process. In addition to our research team, I am sure that researchers in other fields also possess such information. Compared to academic associations and corporations, universities have a neutral position and are highly trusted. Therefore, universities must collect and convey such information. This is particularly for universities such as Waseda which combine the humanities and sciences in one institution. In addition to preparing for future earthquakes, handling such information would be effective in cultivating professionals with a broad perspective.


The power industry received a lot of attention due to the recent earthquake. However, correct information has still not been conveyed to the general public regarding issues such as the total amount purchasing system and implementation renewable energy. It is necessary for universities to scientifically convey correct information to society by holding symposiums and seminars. I hope that students will also participate in such activities for contributing to society and the community.


Until now, science and engineering departments at universities have put all of their energy into cultivating engineers. However, many meetings are currently being held at disaster areas in order to gain approval for future measures. In order for engineers to make persuasive proposals at such meetings, knowledge of more than mechanics and physics is required. Engineers also require knowledge in the field of social sciences. After the earthquake, engineers have been put in the position of giving detailed explanations to society regarding the dangers associated with social systems such as power and disaster prevention. I believe that the time has come to revaluate educational content at Waseda as well.


It is necessary to change education in conjunction with changes in society, right? Finally, please give a closing message to people living and working in disaster areas.


Waseda University is working hard to thoroughly analyze the recent disaster and to convey information to future generations. In order to prevent similar disasters in the future, we will put our utmost effort into research.


Among Waseda graduates, there are people who were born in areas devastated by the recent earthquake. There are people who live in disaster areas even now, and there are people who are working to provide support and recovery. It is my ardent hope that such Waseda graduates will play a leading role in reconstruction, and I will do everything in my ability to help.


I am sure that many people are currently experiencing inconvenience due to problems with power supply. As researchers, we will work even harder to address power and energy issues. I hope to conduct research for creating new types of power grids.


The Faculty of Science and Engineering will give our utmost effort to form interdepartmental partnerships which extend beyond specific fields. It is our mission to cultivate students who will contribute to society. Together with other academic faculty, I hope to create professionals who can help the disaster areas. Thank you very much for your time today.


(To first installment)