Fukushima is planning to transform itself into a renewable energy hub, almost nine years after it became the scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident for a quarter of a century. The prefecture in north-east Japan will forever be associated with the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 11 March 2011, but in an ambitious project the local government has vowed to power the region with 100% renewable energy by 2040, compared with 40% today. The 2011 accident, triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, sent large quantities of radiation into the atmosphere and forced the evacuation of more than 150,000 residents.
A 80 km grid will connect Fukushima’s power generation with the Tokyo metropolitan area, once heavily dependent on nuclear energy produced at the prefecture’s two atomic plants. When completed, the project will generate up to 600 megawatts of electricity, roughly two-thirds the output of an average nuclear power plant.
Despite the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, Japan’s conservative government is pushing to restart idle reactors. It wants nuclear power, which generated almost a third of the country’s power before Fukushima, to make up between 20% and 22% of its overall energy mix by 2030, drawing criticism from campaigners who say nuclear plants pose a danger given the country’s vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunami.
All of Japan’s 54 reactors were shut down after the Fukushima meltdown. Nine reactors are in operation today, having passed stringent safety checks introduced after the disaster. Japan is the third-biggest importer of coal after India and China. Its megabanks have been urged to end their financing of coal-fired plants in Vietnam and other developing countries in Asia.