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Japanese plan to build power plant on Moon isn't pie in sky

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Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex immediately after the 2011 earthquakeFukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex immediately after the 2011 earthquakeA Japanese construction company is proposing to solve the energy problems facing Japan, and ultimately the entire planet, by turning the Moon into a solar power plant.

Shimizu Corp, which is based in Tokyo, wants to lay a belt of solar panels 250 miles wide around the equator of the Moon and relay the resulting constant supply of energy to "receiving stations" on Earth by laser or microwave transmission.

The proposed 'Luna Ring' would be capable of sending 13,000 terawatts of power to Earth. In 2011, the US generated just 4,100 terawatts of power, the company says.

"A shift from economical use of limited resources to the unlimited use of clean energy is the ultimate dream of mankind," Shimizu said on its website. "The Luna Ring ... translates this dream into reality through ingenious ideas coupled with advanced space technologies."

Until March 2011, and the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan had relied heavily on nuclear power.

Public opposition to atomic energy has hardened in the intervening years, as the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company struggle to bring the stricken plant's reactors under control.

There is a general acceptance that Japan, which shut down its last functioning nuclear reactor in September, will need to restart its nuclear plants in the short term, but the disaster has focused new attention on alternative -- and safer -- forms of energy.

Shimizu first came up with its Luna Ring proposal before the accident at Fukushima, but the continuing crisis means the scheme is attracting renewed interest.

The company is reluctant to put a price tag on the construction costs involved but, given adequate funding, it believes construction work could get under way as early as 2035.

Robots and automated equipment would be developed to mine the Moon's natural resources and produce concrete and the solar cells required for the scheme.

Once completed, the belt would stretch 6,800 miles around the equator and ensure constant exposure to the sun.

November 29 2013, 15:42

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