Build Solar Capacity at Nuclear Plants

I am reading Minister of Economy Edano’s recent book “Tatakaretemo iwaneba naranai koto” (What I have to say even if I get beaten up for it).

He starts out this book by looking back to his involvement in the aftermath of the earthquake and the Fukushima accident last year. He was one of the key persons involved on the government side. I recall watching his regular press conferences.

I learned that the TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo and the Fukushima plant were connected by a television conference system. But the government didn’t realize even this simple fact until March 15, four days after the earthquake, when Prime Minister Kan lost patience and stormed into TEPCO headquarters (pages 31 to 32).

In contrast, I already knew a bit about the failure to get mobile generators connected in time. Last time I wrote about it was in June last year.

Edano writes (on page 23) that the first mobile generator arrived at about 9 in the evening on March 11, and the final count was 60. But their plugs did not match, their voltage did not match, and their connection cables were too short.

And he comments that this vital mission failed because of these very simple problems.

Obviously, one would want to make sure that in future cases the mobile generators can be plugged in quickly.

But I have one other proposal as well.

Build as much solar and wind capacity as possible right on site, and connect it to the plant’s internal grid in the first place.

There is probably no other application of electricity where having an uninterrupted supply is of such vital importance. The consequences of those plugs not matching and those cables being too short have been enormous.

In that case, it makes sense to throw every available resource at the problem of keeping power under any circumstances. Adding renewable capacity right on site would diversify the supply. It could only help, since it adds one more layer of security if everything else fails.

That would also mean that those power plants could at least supply some electricity to the grid while they are shut down, as many of the plants in Japan will be for a long time from now.

And I like the symbolic value of having solar panels at nuclear sites.

I hear that most of the European nuclear power plants have failed their stress tests. They  might want to consider adding this security feature as well.


Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

2 thoughts on “Build Solar Capacity at Nuclear Plants

  1. The nuclear plant need *reliable* electricity. If it just happens that the disaster happens at night a day where there’s almost no wind, this will require batteries, and then you can just use the batteries.

    However I do think this could be a good idea but for a slightly different reason.
    If you put a *lot* of solar panels and wind turbine around the nuclear plant, there will be very little or no population.
    This means that the area will serve for something useful but if something bad happens at the plant, very few people will need to be evacuated.

    Actually this is something that Tepco could do *now* and that could restore some of it’s image with the people living in the evacuated area. Negotiate with them, and provide them funds, so that as much as possible of the agricultural field that have too much radioactivity to be used for agriculture until a long time, can be converted to large scale solar panel field (or host wind turbines if more appropriate).
    The good thing to do would be to give the landowners all profits from the sale of electricity, and just ask them to repay the panels over 20 years, without interest.


  2. Adding solar and wind can only increase reliability compared to a situation without them.

    And even if you have other sources running out in the night with no wind, you would at least get some power back the next morning, which would help cool the reactors as long as the sun is up.

    I understand that people in the affected areas have had the idea of using the land for PV already, and I agree with you that it is a good idea. There is no need to restrict investors to TEPCO, anyone can do it under the FIT in place since July.


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