U.S., Japan To Increase Energy Research Cooperation

By Kathryn McConnell
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The United States and Japan will broaden their cooperative efforts on energy security and technology research, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced.

The two countries, both major energy consumers - "recognize that improving energy efficiency and diversifying their energy mix … are essential for ensuring the mutual energy security", according to an Energy Department statement.

One key effort will be collaboration on research and development to support the construction of new nuclear power plants and more cooperative research in civilian nuclear energy technologies, Bodman said at a January 9 press briefing in Washington.

Bodman was joined at the briefing by Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry, Akira Amari, following a meeting between the two earlier that day.

The United States and Japan are developing a joint nuclear energy action plan expected to be completed by April, Bodman said.

Japanese engineers have "enormous technical skills" to bring to the collaborative efforts, Bodman said.

The announcement of more cooperation is a "turning point in energy policy," Amari said.

Japan also agreed actively to participate in the FutureGen Project, a U.S.-sponsored initiative to build the world's first emission-free coal-fired electricity generation plant. FutureGen is a $1 billion, 10-year public-private partnership begun in 2003. (See related article.)

The United States and Japan will accelerate research and information exchanges between the public and private sectors in clean coal technologies such as the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

IGCC is a clean coal technology that turns coal into a gas, and then removes impurities from the coal gas before it is combusted.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) captures carbon dioxide emissions from major sources, such as power plants, and stores it away safely instead of releasing it into the atmosphere possibly affecting climate change.

The countries also will continue to exchange research information on methane hydrates, specifically in production testing and detection, to accelerate the feasibility of commercial methane production, Bodman said.

Methane hydrates are energy-rich compounds of methane trapped in sediments underneath oceans and polar permafrost.