From nuclear to hydrogen: How the city closest to Fukushima rose from catastrophe with a imaginative and prescient of renewable power in solely 10 years


March 11, 2011, was a day I shall always remember, a day when the individuals of Namie in northern Japan misplaced a lot and endured a lot. It was a quiet Friday afternoon when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. As a city official, I used to be attending a center college commencement ceremony in the course of the morning. When, that afternoon, the bottom shook violently in one of many largest quakes ever to hit our quake-prone nation, I knew there was a robust threat of a tsunami and was relieved that each one the youngsters had been evacuated safely to larger floor.

But for a lot of in our city, the tragedy was unremitting. 181 of our buddies and neighbors misplaced their lives because the 15-meter waves crashed ashore, engulfing all the 600 houses alongside the coast. We proceed to mourn for individuals who have perished. Even then our ordeal was not over. As the hours handed, we came upon via tv broadcasts that the close by Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear energy plant was in hassle, and that evacuation warnings had been introduced. All 21,000 of our residents needed to evacuate with little greater than what they might carry.

At such occasions, it’s tough to think about any kind of future. Instead, every day is dedicated to coping together with your loss and coping with day-to-day life. The primary wants of meals, housing, medical care had been our major points. But the longer term does, in fact, in the end arrive. And whereas we can not management the ravages of nature, we are able to form our future and that is what we’ve completed in Namie.

As I spoke with lots of our residents over the next months, many mentioned they wished to return to life because it had been. While I agreed, I noticed that we have to as a substitute look to a brand new future. Ten years later, we’re again and we’re happy with what we’ve achieved. And now, the brand new period of hydrogen power is shaping our future. With the assistance of regional and nationwide leaders, our city is right now home to the biggest hydrogen plant in Japan and on the planet.

This thrilling path started in 2017, when the New Energy and Industrial Development Organization (NEDO) introduced a public providing for a “Fukushima Hydrogen Project.” Having felt a robust must shift to renewable power, Namie utilized and, fortunately, was awarded the undertaking. The undertaking was spectacular: utilizing former farmland for solar energy to supply electrical energy to drive the electrolysis that produces clear hydrogen from Namie’s water.

Hydrogen is a clear gasoline that may be simply saved and transported, its potential as an power supply is nearly limitless, from vehicles and vehicles to ships and even airplanes. Unlike tasks that depend on burning coal or oil to make hydrogen, Namie was capable of generate hydrogen from sources which can be clear, renewable, and fully freed from CO2.

Last yr, Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide declared that Japan would obtain net-zero COemissions by 2050. This declaration and the worldwide motion in direction of zero-emissions inspired us, understanding that we’re shifting in the precise route. I’m now assured that we’re efficiently recovering from the nuclear catastrophe and turning into the world’s main hydrogen city.

I hope that we are able to function a symbolic chief on this motion for the remainder of Japan, in addition to spotlight Japan’s skills in innovating hydrogen-based applied sciences for powering our transportation programs and houses. Already, Namie-made hydrogen has been deliberate to energy the torch for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games which have been re-scheduled for this July.

For a city to have a future, nonetheless, it wants greater than an influence plant. Namie right now is home to simply 1,500 individuals and far of our city continues to be a part of the lengthy clean-up course of. My imaginative and prescient is to create a vibrant, rising city, one which balances cutting-edge applied sciences with our traditions of agriculture, fisheries, and highlights the pure fantastic thing about our space. In this manner, we are able to appeal to the brand new residents we have to thrive.

h 51366822
A wind turbine set up off the coast of Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. EPA//TORU YAMANAKA

To create a long-lasting job market, we’ve formulated the Namie Hydrogen Town Initiative which might allow a inexperienced progress by bringing in revolutionary firms. Partnerships with firms on the slicing fringe of power expertise, comparable to Toshiba, have been invaluable to the initiative. We are additionally inviting “hydrogen tourism,” an opportunity to showcase the newest improvements in using renewable power. Further, plans on using ICT applied sciences to spice up the restoration of major trade, establishing an area farming cycle have been set in movement. We additionally opened the primary elementary and junior excessive colleges in 2018, and I used to be delighted to have the ability to hear youngsters enjoying in our hometown after so a few years.

This previous yr has been an extremely tough time for cities and cities everywhere in the world. The coronavirus pandemic, wildfires, and different disasters have created huge disruptions within the lives of so many. But as I’ve realized, we can not permit a catastrophe to remove our hopes for the longer term. Merely making an attempt to return to the previous won’t appeal to the following era wanted for innovation and progress.

I hope that Namie’s 10-year transformation generally is a mannequin for how you can flip problem into alternative and for every city to create its personal imaginative and prescient for the longer term and a greater society.