Geothermal energy could replace nuclear in JapanDecember 27, 2012
Geothermal energy has vast potential in Japan
Despite sidetracking its plans to be rid of nuclear energy within the coming years, Japan is still keen to replace its nuclear power plants with safer forms of energy. In 2011, the Fukushima disaster triggered a serious nuclear crisis in Northern Japan when a powerful tsunami tore apart several nuclear power facilities. Since then, the country has been working to move away from nuclear power, and geothermal may be becoming one of the best paths for this endeavor.
Iceland ambassador highlights the capabilities of geothermal energy
Japan has vast potential in terms of geothermal energy. The country is situated on the Ring of Fire, a region in the Pacific Ocean that is home to most of the world’s seismic activity. Because of Japan’s geographic position, the country has the opportunity to tap into vast stores of geothermal energy. According to Stefan Larus Stefansson, Iceland’s ambassador to Japan, the country has enough geothermal potential to fully replace 25 nuclear power facilities.
Japan already has a strong geothermal infrastructure
Geothermal energy had once been a strong focus for Japan, but the government chose to sideline this form of alternative energy in favor of nuclear power. Stefansson notes that geothermal energy has the capability of meeting the energy needs of Japanese citizens. Homes in Iceland, for instance, receive more than 90% of their heat from geothermal sources. Japan already has a modest infrastructure in place to make the switch from nuclear energy to geothermal energy, but the government will have to invest some money in order to modernize the country’s various geothermal energy systems.
Environmental concerns stunt geothermal efforts
There is a major concern that new geothermal energy systems, as well as those that currently exist, have been disrupting natural habitats throughout Japan. Tapping into geothermal energy can often introduce volatile and toxic chemicals into the natural environment, poisoning ecosystems and killing off wildlife. Construction on such projects could also be a significant problem, as well as consumer traffic to locations such as hot springs. Stefansson notes that Iceland has saved approximately $7.2 billion in energy costs since 1970 through the use of geothermal energy, all while keeping the country’s environment healthy and intact.