Climate Crisis

Fukushima gets new life as a renewable powerhouse after the 2011 meltdown

Members of the media and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employees wearing protective suits and masks walk down the steps of a fuel handling machine on the spent fuel pool inside the No.4 reactor building at the tsunami-crippled TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture November 7, 2013. Japan approved on October 30, 2013 a plan by TEPCO to extract thousands of nuclear fuel rods from the fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area. REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool environment renewable solar energy change transition friendly environment carbon footprint carbon emissions reduction change natural climate change global warming air pollution clean energy power renewables plastic plastics japan Fukushima

Members of the media and Tokyo Electric Power Co. inside the plant that was partially destroyed in the 2011 tsunami. Image: REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool

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Climate Crisis

  • Tsunami caused triple reactor meltdown in 2011 .
  • Investors plan 11 solar and 10 wind farms on the abandoned site.
  • Renewable energy hub to supply electricity to the Tokyo metropolitan area.
  • The $2.75 billion project makes use of contaminated land that can no longer be used for farming.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that rocked northeastern Japan in 2011 caused a tsunami that devastated both the Fukushima nuclear plant and the lives of nearby residents, who were evacuated from a 30-km exclusion zone that’s still in force.

That abandoned site is now being regenerated and turned into a hub for renewable energy.

Have you read?

A group of investors is converting contaminated mountainous areas and former farmland that can no longer be used to grow crops or raise livestock into 11 solar power plants and 10 wind farms.

Operating at full capacity, the hub will generate 600 megawatts of power – about two-thirds the output of a single nuclear reactor.

With costs estimated at more than $2.75 billion, the new plants will supply electricity to the Tokyo metropolitan area, connecting to the city’s power network through a still-to-be-constructed 80km-wide grid within Fukushima.

A fresh start

Fukushima aims to become an international centre for renewable energy. The prefecture has set a target of meeting 100% of its energy needs from renewables by 2040.

A mixture of solar, wind and biomass, with small amounts of geothermal and small-scale hydro power, was generating nearly 1.4 gigawatts of energy for Fukushima prefecture by 2017, according to the Japan Times.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Japan’s energy mix remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Solar power generates just 6% of the nation’s electricity, while wind accounts for less than 1%. But there are signs of change, as major corporations and energy traders begin to embrace cleaner energy, according to BloombergNEF.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2019 reports strong growth in the deployment of renewables over the past decade, thanks in part to the falling prices of solar energy and wind power.

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The rise of renewables. Image: Our World in Data
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