A lot has happened since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the 15 months since the power plant was damaged by a double-whammy of an earthquake and a tsunami, the nuclear state has been described as worse than Chernobyl and the country has shut down all its reactors. Now that the country is nuclear-free, the problem is that without this power source, their emissions are set to rise as they become more reliant on fossil fuels. However, there may be another solution – Japan’s thermal springs.
Located in the infamous Ring of Fire, Japan is extremely volcanic and, as a result, has a number of thermal springs. It has been estimated that the country’s springs could generate up to 23.47 GW of geothermal energy; however, many are located in national parks and could be hard to exploit.
“It [Japan] is currently only generating 0.5 Gigawatts of power via geothermal power, but it has the potential for up to 23.5 Gigawatts. Obviously a lot of this is in national parks, in hot spring areas which are currently being used for tourism, but could be converted, at least potentially, to more energy generation,” said James Corbett, editor of The Corbett Report.
There are a number of renewable options for the country including solar power (could create 3.5 gigawatts (GW)), wind power (current capacity is about 2.5 GW) and tidal power (but this is still in the experimental stage). The fact is that Japan is going to have to do something and fast. It is estimated that the country’s new oil demand requires an additional 4.5 million barrels a day, which would cost an extra $100 million. For a country whose economy is struggling, this is not the greatest news. In fact, the Japanese Finance Ministry said the deficit had risen to $50 billion because of the extra fuel (including LNG) imports needed to compensate for the lack of nuclear energy.
Currently Japan gets around 8 percent of its energy from renewable sources and is looking to raise that figure to over 25 percent by 2030, but many think that the country may have to go back to nuclear power if they are to meet that target.
Speaking to RT.com, Dr. Howard Hayden, Professor of Physics at Connecticut University, said that Japan “will probably go back to nuclear in due time because money talks.”
“It’s costing them very dearly. They haven’t got nearly enough electricity and they have actually called on some factories to cut back their operations quite a bit,” said Hayden. “Eventually they will probably restart most of their reactors. The ones that are in possible danger of tsunamis, they’ll of course either shut down completely or build some much better protective walls around them.”