Japan’s nuclear crisis

Geothermal, Nuclear Energy and Japan

The entire world’s attention is not on earthquake/tsunami disaster that struck Japan but on the energy crisis that plunged Japan due to the failure of all the 4 Fukushima nuclear reactors.  Japan will take a long way to recover from this disaster. But its immediate emergency is to bridge the energy supply gap that resulted due to the sudden shortage of 2.8 GWe. These 4 reactors generate 22 billion kWhr contributing 2.5 % of total Japan’s electricity demand. Now this shortage has to come from other energy sources like oil, coal, natural gas, solar, wind and geothermal etc etc!!.  Japan, although has large geothermal resources, the country overlooked this important source that could replace 100 % Japan’s planned nuclear power generation capacity in the coming decades.  The country can not ignore this important vast resource given the advantage of having all the turbine and geothermal power plant manufacturing giant companies, like Mitsubishi Corp., Fuji Electric, Toshiba etc, on its board

 Considering the time taken to recover from the disaster like the Fukushima, constructing geothermal power plants is much simpler option to put the power back in the grid. As on today Japan is generating 3000 GWh from 18 geothermal power plants contributing 0.3 % of total electricity production. 8 power plants are located in northern Japan and 4 of which are located in and around Sendai. 

The estimated geothermal potential is 24 GWe which the country should exploit now to tide over the crisis given the fact that geothermal power plant’s capacity is 95%- much higher than the nuclear!!

 As on 2007 data, Solar pv contribution was  2 GW  and by 2030 the country is planning to enhance the solar pv installed capacity to 100 GW.  However  the cost of solar pv is much higher compared to other renewables like geothermal. The current cost of solar pv is 20 US cents/kWh ( in USA the cost is 17 cents), while geothermal is  one fourth of this cost.

 When M 9.0 earthquake of Honshu disrupted normal life along the entire E and NE coastal regions of Japan, the question being asked is “ how safe are the geothermal power plants (GPP) in and around Sendai ?”  when the all the four Fukushima nuclear reactors ( ~ 4600 MWe generating capacity) yielded affecting a large number of people in the region. 

Nothing happened to the 4 GPPs located on either side of Sendai.  There are 8 GPPs located around Sendai region- 4 plants north of Sendai, 1 located south of Sendai and the remaining three located along the western coast, just opposite to Sendai region. 198 MWe of power is being generated by these power plants.  The power plants tripped immediately after the earthquake for couple of hours and resumed their normal capacity generation later. Hachijojima GPP, located in an island, south of the epicenter region hasnot been damaged and started functioning after a short break.

 With nuclear programme taking a back stem with Fukushima incident, Japan ca no longer ignore developing all its available green energy resources to its full capacity and put the country back on the fast track development. Japan example will be an eye opener to all other countries that has huge geothermal resources lying untapped.
 There are other safer options available to use nulear power plants in a safer and well cpontrolled manner. By constructing such large plants, countries, not only are endfangering their own people but also creating unwanted tragedy to other countries as well. Ther should be a lagislation to penalize such countries for disrupting other countries wealth and health.
Japan may be highly technologically advanced, but in the face of natural disasters, any country for that matter, have to accept that those technologies are inferior to those of nature.  It is surprising to note that there are nearly 52 nuclear reactors in Japan – a country fights day and night with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. If such disasters are affecting their own country it is fine but affecting other countries’ developmental activity is not acceptable.