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Fukushima disaster paves way for new geothermal plants

August 10, 2012

Fukushima disaster paves way for new geothermal plants

Before last year’s disaster in north-east Japan, Tsuchiyu Onsen caters to tens of thousands of tourists in search of recuperative qualities of its piping hot spring water. Almost 18 months after the nuclear accident at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi power plant, this spa resort will use its natural resource into a source of renewable energy.

By spring of 2014, Tsuchiyu located 9 miles from Fukushima, will be generating 250 kilowatts of electricity which is about a quarter of the city’s total needs via geothermal power plant. The plant will be the first ever built inside a national park after the Ministry of Environment recently relaxed regulations on developing protected areas. This controversial move will help the town become self-sufficient in power generation and also revive its role as a tourist destination after lingering fears over radiation.

In the past, hot-spring operators have been among the fiercest opponents of geothermal energy as many fear that the plants would affect the flow and quality of water. In Tsuchiyu, however, where half a dozen hotels remain closed due the earthquake damage, spa owners are among the new geothermal generator’s keenest backers. “The plant won’t affect the water quality or the temperature,” said Kazuya Ikeda, General Manager of the Tsuchiyu Onsen Tourist Attraction. “We have surveyed the town and no one has raised any objections.”

Resistance to geothermal power, coupled with the pre-Fukushima faith in nuclear energy means that Japan has not tapped into this resource that energy experts believe has huge potential. But now, with the opposition to restarting nuclear power, this alternative is being looked into.

Read more at Guardian Environment Network.

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