- - Thursday, April 28, 2011

TOKYO | Japan must rely more on green energy to restore power to the vast areas devastated by a nuclear-reactor disaster, a massive earthquake and a tsunami that wiped out whole towns, leaders of a government reconstruction effort said this week.

Cities and houses need to be rebuilt on high ground and to withstand the shocks from future earthquakes like the magnitude 9 temblor that rattled northeastern Japan on March 11, they warned. Authorities have recovered more than 14,500 bodies, and many fear the death toll will reach more than 25,000.

“It’s not enough to restore things as before,” said Jun Iio, one of the leaders of the reconstruction group.

“We have to pursue creative reconstruction. We can’t just build homes where they were before so that they can be destroyed by tsunami waves again.”

Mr. Iio, who is with the National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies in Japan, and the panel’s chairman, Makoto Iokibe, president of the National Defense Academy, outlined plans to rebuild Japan in a briefing with foreign reporters in Tokyo.

Mr. Iokibe, a well-known historian, noted that Japan has always rebuilt and thrived after a crisis.

“We have to hit rock bottom before we can spring back stronger,” he said.

Members of the panel - which includes respected philosophers, architects and corporate leaders - already have begun discussing the possibility of building alternative energy sources in the disaster zones, including solar, wind and geothermal power.

“Many people in our group feel very strongly that we must use more environmentally friendly sources of energy. We are very positive about this,” Mr. Iio said.

The tsunami destroyed the cooling system of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima province, causing fuel rods to overheat and releasing vast amounts of radiation.

Mr. Iio predicted the recovery will take longer than the 10-year reconstruction of Kobe in southern Japan after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that killed 5,500 in 1995.

“I think we will not even be finished after 10 years,” he said.

“It’s not enough to restore things as before. We have to pursue creative reconstruction. We can’t just build homes where they were before so that they can be destroyed by tsunami waves again.”

Mr. Iio said new buildings must be constructed on “very high ground” to protect from future tsunamis. The one spawned by the latest earthquake sent 30-foot-high waves crashing ashore.

He also suggested planting trees and making parks out of piles of wreckage and urged that each village or town form its own “reconstruction company,” headed by the mayor.

Mr. Iio said the disaster is “of an enormous scale beyond the capabilities of Japan.”

“We open our doors to different ideas from other countries,” he said, inviting foreign help.

“We can use this disaster and reconstruction efforts as a means to combine our strengths and push Japan in a more positive direction. We need to receive more ideas and wisdom from around the world to do this,” Mr. Iio said.

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