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Japan turn to German firm Entrade to generate power from Fukushima-affected timber

Japan has turned to a German renewable energy firm Entrade Energiesysteme to generate power from timber irradiated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.

According to media reports in Bloomberg, Entrade will sell electricity from 400 of its container-size biomass-to-power machines set up in Fukushima Prefecture, said Julien Uhlig.

The devices will generate 20MW of power by next year and function like a “biological battery” that kicks in when the sun descends on the region’s solar panels, he said.

The prefecture aims to generate 100% of its power from renewable energy by 2040, according to the report. Selling green power with Entrade’s mobile units could support Japanese attempts to repopulate the towns of Ōkuma and Futab, which have struggled to restart after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which killed 18,000 people and trigged the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.

Entrade’s so-called E4 plants, four of which fit inside a 40-foot (12-meter) container, can reduce the mass of lightly radioactive wood waste by 99.5%, according to Uhlig. Shrinking the volume of waste could help Japanese authorities who need to reduce the volume of contaminated materials. Workers around Fukushima have been cleaning by scraping up soil, moss and leaves from contaminated surfaces and sealing them in containers.

“Burning won’t destroy radiation but we can shrink detritus to ash and create a lot of clean power at the same time,” said Uhli told Bloomberg. He added: “There’s a lot of excitement about this project but I also detected a high degree of reluctance in Fukushima to talk about radiation.”