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Sans Nuclear, Japan Finds Itself in Energy Crunch

(LinkAsia: March 15, 2013)
Thuy Vu:
Moving on now to Japan, the country's in an energy crunch. Ninety-nine percent of Japan's crude oil and natural gas are imported. Virtually all its nuclear reactors were closed after the Fukushima disaster two years ago. So the country’s scrambling to find new energy sources to keep the lights on. They may have found a new source deep in the ocean. Here’s Japan's public broadcaster NHK.


Airdate: March 11, 2013

Kaho Izumitani, Reporter:
Researchers in Japan have been hunting for methane hydrates since the 1990s. They estimate the deposits discovered in the Pacific could cover the country’s gas needs for 14 years.

And that’s not all. They’ve found evidence of methane hydrates elsewhere in Japanese waters. Some experts say the total amount could provide natural gas for the next century.

Ryo Matsumoto:
The fact that natural gas can be extract within the Japanese exclusive economic zone is a huge advantage for Japanese industry.

Kaho Izumitani:
The push to find new sources of energy got stronger in 2011 after the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Only 2 of 50 commercial nuclear reactors are generating power right now because of tougher restrictions.

Utility companies are importing more natural gas to fire thermal power plants. That’s caused Japan’s trade deficit to balloon to a record high. It grew to more than 70 billion dollars last year.

Along with methane hydrate, businesses are looking for other energy sources. Workers at a drilling company succeeded last October in extracting shell oil from rock layers deep underground in northern Japan.

Researchers also have their eye on the water’s off Sado island in the Sea of Japan. Oil and natural gas reserves could be sitting nearly 3,000 meters below the seabed. Government officials plan to start test-drilling there in April.

But for now, it’s the revelations about methane hydrate that are fueling excitement in Japan. Experts caution that scientists soon need to create technology to stably extract the gas and reduce costs.

Ryo Matsumoto:
I hope Japan can start production in about 10 years. Many countries are watching how Japan extracts gas from this new resource and whether the method works. If Japan cooperates with other countries as a leader, it can contribute to the world.

Kaho Izumitani:
Japan is considered a resource-poor nation, but it’s rich in technological know-how. The government and industry hope they can tap that resource and secure safe and stable source of energy that will last for generations. Kaho Izumitani, NHK World, Tokyo.


Thuy Vu:
All this week, Japanese have been marking the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 20-thousand people and displaced hundreds of thousands on Japan's northeast coast. The anniversary reverberated in New York as well. Masaaki Suzuki conducted his Baroque Orchestra in memorial concert for victims of the tsunami and last winter's big storm in the American northeast. Here's NHK.



Airdate: March 11, 2013

300 people gathered at a church in Manhattan on March 11. It’s the second anniversary of the earthquake in Japan. The orchestra performed Bach in memory of the victims. It also prayed for the reconstruction of the affected areas.

"I thought it was very beautiful, and I think it’s a very nice gesture that these two different countries are getting together to support the people that had to go through both of these traumatic experiences."

Maestro Suzuki says he is happy because he could finally show his appreciations to Americans for their support.

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