Japan meets Energy and Environment

About me

I’ve always believed that words have little meaning without knowing whose lips let them through. This is specially truth since the Internet era gave a voice to millions of people, many of which hide themselves behind their online identities. It is for that reason that I have decided to make a self-portrait trying to offer you a glimpse of who am I and where do I come from, which I hope will help you understand better whatever you may read on this website.

So, who am I ?

Married to Japanese wife, I was born in 1981 in Madrid amid a left-wing, non-religious, lower-mid-class Spanish family, the third kid after my two brothers and before my sister, with neither parent having a university degree. Since then I have spent about half of my short life abroad, between Belgium, where I learned French as the natives do at the age of 10, France, a few months in UK, and most recently Japan, where I’ve lived for the past 2 years.

Morally speaking I remain stuck into Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. It was passion for his work during high school what pushed me to learn German during University, though obviously I never made it that far.

Religiously speaking I’m pretty much an atheist born in one of the most catholic countries in the world, though I have still not decided whether the inherent social benefits of religious belief outdo the obvious dangers of mass manipulation capabilities it offers.

Politically speaking I’m a leftist born in a country that had just left behind 40 years of right-wing dictatorship, and usually find myself beyond what modern social-democrat parties offer. Regardless of any government efficiency or energy considerations, that is a simple consequence of the deep belief that none are born with equal chances and none have any strong control of their random destinies, so the luckier should share their wealth and knowledge with the rest. It is a just a matter of empathy or, to me, a straight conclusion of Kant’s imperative.

Above all, I am a deeply rational person with an unlimited thirst for knowledge, endless curiosity to understand the world and its inhabitants, but that has never truly appreciated learning without doing. That is most likely the reason why despite being passionate for science I graduated in engineering, despite being an engineer I still couldn’t stop before PhD, and never really settled with one single specialty.

Having spent most of my youth in large capital cities, I prefer the country side where I now live, and have always been an absolute nature lover, meaning not only enjoying it but also conserving it.

It was the will to “apply human knowledge to ensure most people’s well-being while conserving nature” that brought me to the energy crossroads, to which I dedicate my working life, now as an R&D engineer at Japan Atomic Energy Agency, a public institution under the MEXT umbrella.

Whatever you may read here will for sure be closely related to each and every one of the facets of my personality, which I hope you know understand better.

Me and Energy

Since most of what I’ll write on the blog will be energy related, I thought it is equally important to describe my energy-me. By any means, this doesn’t aim to highlight any of my otherwise modest contributions on any field, but simply to help you understand the header of this post: “who am I”?

The first ever energy-related subject I studied was Solar Energy at Madrid’s Polytechnic University’s ETSIT. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that it was Professor Mr. Narvarte’s passion that opened my eyes to the role of energy at the heart of any social superstructure.

It was that seed he planted that made me leave the world of IT and telecommunications, and took me to the École des Mines de Paris in France, where Professor Mr. Pineau broadened my horizons to the industrial world, which obviously included energy. Nuclear engineering was not my major, but I did follow every related course at the ENSMP.

Yet sure Narvarte’s influence what made me choose my first ever energy-related enterprise: a humanitarian project aiming to build a solar-powered water-purifying station in a Senegal village. That ended just after I finished a project in collaboration with the Institut Curie analyzing the impact for the French Public Health System of the introduction of a new innovative breast-cancer treatment therapy. Forgot to mention, before I decided to become an engineer being a doctor was plan B…

My first actual experience on anything nuclear came in 2004, during a summer internship at the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor: EFDA’s Joint European Torus (JET) near Oxford, UK. More than my actual work on signal processing, it was the “fusion power” dream which I tried to “sell” to younger physicists first (ICPS 2004, NoviSad), would later became the first ever presentation I’ve done in Japanese language (EU-Japan Workshop, Kyoto, 2005). At that time I had been barely 3 months in Japan, so sure it doesn’t sound pretty now…

My master thesis in material science I did it at Renault’s Technocentre, working on their now abandoned hydrogen fuel-cell powered car. The contents of such work remain confidential, but that didn’t prevent me from trying to sell the hydrogen revolution to the same young physicists that had to listen to my fusion dreams a year before… (ICPS 2005, Coimbra). Go figure, it seems that it took a massive quake to popularize the vision depicted on that good old 2005 Honda slide:

By then though, one question started pressing me: How long until everyone can live like this… ?

Indeed, I had little by little come to the conclusion that nuclear fission power was the best (for sure not the only) available answer to future power needs of societies like the Japanese, but not without having taken the time to personally analyze the benefits of renewable energy when taking externalities into account in the framework of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA). A conclusion that still holds, even after past year Fukushima NPP1 accident.

Nuclear fission had to wait though, as I decided I wanted to discover Japan first, and enrolled in the EU-Japan Center for Industrial Cooperation’s Vulcanus Program. It was not personal choice but I guess luck what made my host company what later became Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy. Indeed, I had been first assigned to JFE Steel, and was only later offered Hitachi, which came later to the candidate matching party, as an “extra alternative”; I took that chance.

From then on it has been fission, though I still rather work for a public organism than a private company, which is one of the reasons I came back to Europe to do my PhD while working at French Nuclear Energy Commission (CEA) in Saclay, near Paris.

The rest of my energy-me you already know.