March 15, 2021

Why is the 2011 Fukushima earthquake still shaking up Japan?

By Chermaine Lee

With Fukushima’s horrific earthquake-induced nuclear disaster still haunting Japan, the East Asian nation is finding it increasingly difficult to rehash the idea of nuclear plants as renewable energy sources. In this episode, we also cover China’s funding pullout of overseas coal power plants, India’s water sources springing back to life, South Korea’s five year-plan and Singapore’s innovative floating solar farm.

10-year-anniversary of Japan’s biggest nuclear disaster in history

Last week the East Asian nation witnessed the 10–year anniversary of the Fukushima earthquake, which unleashed a huge tsunami that caused one of the most severe nuclear disasters in modern history. And the effects from the nuclear accident are still haunting Japanese.

In 2011, a magnitude 9–earthquake shocked Japan’s northeastern coast, later battled by a gigantic tsunami that led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the coast. The deadly incident led to the deaths of 20,000 and evacuation of 160,000. As the region is highly contaminated with radioactive particles, recovery has been challenging. The Japanese government has spent US$300 billion so far to rebuild the tsunami–hit the Tohoku region, but Fukushima plants remains off–limits to humans due to high radiation levels.

The accident has left a scar on most Japanese people. That might explain why over 85 percent of the population are still worried about nuclear accidents, according to a NHK public TV survey. An Asahi newspaper survey in February showed that over half of the nation is still opposed to restarting reactors. In the first half of 2020, nuclear plants only powered six percent of Japan’s energy. That means that resource–poor Japan will have a hard time resuming the role of nuclear power plants in its energy portfolio on its path to carbon neutrality by 2050.

China pulling out from Bangladesh’s coal power plant

After China pushed its most green–focused five–year plan last Friday, Financial Times reported that the country will halt its funding of coal mines and power plants in Bangladesh. It is seen as part of its campaign to keep Belt and Road investments sustainable. China’s embassy in Bangladesh reportedly said the move to pull funding is due to the projects’ pollution and energy consumption impacts.

The two countries agreed back in 2016 that China would invest a US$3.6 billion loan in Bangladesh’s infrastructure as part of the burgeoning Belt and Road Initiative at the time. Experts said this was a suprise move by China andit’s unclear whether the country is moving away from funding otherpolluting coal projects. Vietnam was by far the largest recipient of overseas energy investment from Chinese companies last year. The Chinese commercial bank and state utility South Grid are in talks to finance the Vinh Tan 3 coal power plant that triggered backlashes from the region’s climate activists.

Singapore’s floating solar farm

The land–scarce Singapore is now building one of the world’s largest floating solar farms. The new project is under development at Tengeh Reservoir that covers an area the size of 45 football pitches. It will mount 122,000 solar panels, which are expected to power the nation’s water treatment plants, and a reduction of carbon emissions equivalent to removing 7,000 cars on the roads.

This is in line with the government’s green plan released last month that aims to boost its solar energy use four–fold to around 2 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2025 — which can generate enough electricity for 350,000 households a year. A newly built solar farm in the country — smaller than the ongoing one — has 13,000 solar panels anchored to the seabed along the coast into the Johor Strait. It can produce five megawatts of electricity, enough for 1,400 flats’ energy consumption for an entire year.

We also covered how India’s ponds and lakes sprang back to life and South Korea’s five-year-plan for handling overfishing. Listen to our podcast series to find out more. And don’t forget to follow our social media so we can keep you up-to-date on green news.

Sustainable Asia’s podcast series “GreenBites” is hosted by Chermaine Lee and Bonnie Au. Associate Producer: Jiaxing Li and Executive Producer: Marcy Trent Long

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