Kan says Japan to promote renewable energy after Fukushima

Japan will scrap a plan to obtain half of its electricity from nuclear power and will instead promote renewable energy as a result of its ongoing nuclear crisis. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government will create a new energy policy and put more emphasis on the development of renewable energy, such as solar energy and wind power and biomass fuels. "Japan needs to review its energy policy while seeking safer ways to secure nuclear power," Kan told a press conference. "Japan will maintain nuclear power and fossil fuels as energy sources, but the government will promote renewable energy and create a more energy-efficient society. They are the two new pillars to our energy policy, the premier said.

Japan’s nuclear plants supplied about 30 percent of the country’s electricity, and the government had planned to raise that to 50 percent. Kan told a news conference that nuclear and fossil fuel used to be the pillars of Japanese energy policy but now it will add two more — renewable energy such as solar energy, wind turbines and biomass, and an increased focus on conservation.

"The current energy policy targets that nuclear power will account for over 50 percent of the country’s total electricity output, and renewables for 20 percent, by 2030. But that basic plan needs to be reviewed now from scratch after this big incident," Kan said, referring to the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The magnitude 9.0-quake and tsunami on March 11 crippled the plant located 230 km north of Tokyo, causing partial reactor meltdowns, explosions and radiation leaks in the world’s worst radiation accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago. The disaster has also forced the evacuation of tens of thousands from their houses and farms in a 20-km radius around the Fukushima plant.

Kan’s announcement came one day after Chubu Electric Power Co. agreed to his request to suspend operations of its aging Hamaoka nuclear power plant, 180 km southwest of Tokyo, until appropriate safety measures against major quakes and tsunamis are taken. Japan currently has 54 reactors, but public concern over nuclear power has increased since the accident at the Fukushima plant.

Kan also admitted that the government shares responsibility for the crisis at the Fukushima plant, saying, "Along with plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., the government, which has pursued a nuclear energy policy, bears a great responsibility for failing to prevent the accident." To take responsibility, Kan said he would not accept his JPY 1.6 million (USD 20,000) monthly premier’s salary until the crisis is under control.

New Wind Energy Plant in Southern Japan

The new wind farm on the Osumi peninsula in Kagoshima prefecture with 15 wind turbines made by Japan Steel Works Ltd. started operations on March 18. Eurus Energy Holdings Corp., a unit of Tokyo Electric Power Co., has completed a 30 MW wind farm in southern Japan. The new wind farm on the Osumi peninsula in Kagoshima prefecture with 15 wind turbines made by Japan Steel Works Ltd. started operations on March 18.

The announcement comes as the parent company, known as TEPCO, tries to bring a damaged nuclear energy plant under control five weeks after a deadly quake and tsunami to the north and amid public concerns about possible power outages.

The latest addition will bring the company’s total wind energy generation capacity to more than 2 gigawatts, according to Mitsue Usami, a spokeswoman for Japan’s biggest wind farm operator. Outside Japan, Eurus Energy operates farms in South Korea, the United States and Europe.

According to data provided by the Japan Wind Power Association, no wind farm in Japan was damaged by the recent earthquake and by the tsunami. As of the end of 2010, Japan had a total installed wind energy capacity of 2304 MW, with 1746 wind turbines.

Kamisu offshore wind farm became the first survivor against a tsunami in the world. There are seven units of 2 MW SUBARU80/2.0 wind turbines on monopile foundations, about 40m offshore from the coast. Kamisu is located about 300 km from the epicenter of the earthquake, and an about 5 m height tsunami hit this area. But the Kamisu offshore wind farm has survived and is now in operation.

Also these results suggest that the anti-earthquake construction design of wind farms in Japan is very reliable. Japan has proven to be a world leader in such so-called "battle proof design".

Most of the wind turbines installed in Japan are in operation now. As the electricity is temporarily running short at the Eastern part of Japan, these wind turbines contribute to the national electricity supply.

WWEA Vice President Prof. Chuichi Arakawa: "Now we have to make strong efforts in Japan to focus much more on renewables, especially wind power, for the next road map of energy and environment. Various studies have shown that Japan is blessed with an abundance of wind and other renewable resources which can be used to rebuild and strengthen our country. We need some time to summarize this situation while taking Japanese mentality into account. However, I am confident that Japan will draw the necessary conclusions from the recent incidents and hopefully start to become a renewable energy nation."

Veterans of the Three Mile Island cleanup in Pennsylvania have said Japanese engineers need to improve the condition of Fukushima Daiichi reactors. The Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, United States suffered a heavy setback after an accident led to a core meltdown in unit two of the plant in 1979. It was the most significant accident in the history of the USA commercial nuclear power generating industry, resulting in the release of up to 481 P Bq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases, and less than 740 GBq (20 curies) of iodine-131. "The cores are probably really similar, partially melted."

In Japan, four separate reactors are damaged, and fixing each one is complicated by the presence of its leaking neighbours, he said, adding that a major infusion of equipments would be required to replace parts like pumps and switchgears that were destroyed by the tsunami.