Sen. Murkowski heads for Japan to talk gas exports, nuclear power

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Senate’s top Republican lawmaker on energy policy, will shortly travel to Japan for meetings about nuclear power and exporting natural gas from her state.

“She is going to meet with Japanese officials and take a look at what they have done since Fukushima on nuclear policy,” said Robert Dillon, Murkowski’s spokesman.

Almost every Japanese reactor is offline following the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which occurred after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck the island.

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Dillon said Murkowski will speak with Japanese officials about exporting Alaskan natural gas to the energy-thirsty island nation.

Murkowski will also lay a wreath at the grave of an Alaskan teacher who was killed in the Japanese tsunami, Dillon said.

Japan is the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and the nation’s need for fossil fuels has risen since the March 2011 catastrophe.

The long-term future of nuclear power in Japan is highly uncertain, although Japan’s new government may scrap its predecessor's plan to phase it out in coming decades, according to reports in the Guardian and other outlets.

Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a strong advocate of proposed pipeline and liquefaction projects to send Alaskan gas to Asian markets.

ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BP and the pipeline company TransCanada are considering a massive project to bring gas from Alaska’s North Slope to its southern coast for transport as LNG via tanker.

The U.S. previously supplied LNG to Japan for 40 years from ConocoPhillips’ Kenai plant in Alaska.