Japan to go nuclear-free for first time since 1970

May 04, 2012
This aerial view, taken in 2010 shows the the Tomari nuclear plant in northernmost Hokkaido, northern Japan. Japan is set to go without nuclear energy for the first time since 1970 from May 5, when the Tomari reactor shuts down for maintenance, heightening fears of a looming power crunch this summer.

Japan is set to go without nuclear energy for the first time since 1970 from Saturday, when the last operating reactor shuts down for maintenance, heightening fears of a looming power crunch this summer.

Only one of Japan's 50 reactors -- at the Tomari nuclear plant in northernmost Hokkaido -- is operating at present, but it is scheduled to stop for maintenance work which will last more than 70 days.

Resource-hungry Japan relied on nuclear energy for about one-third of its electricity demand until a massive earthquake and tsunami in March last year caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Since the disaster there has been lingering public distrust over nuclear energy and all but the one reactor at the Tomari plant are suspended for extra safety checks.

Workers at the Tomari plant will move the control rod into reactor No. 3 at about 5:00pm (0800 GMT) on Saturday, which will lower power generation to zero, a spokesman at Hokkaido Co. (HEPCO) said.

The long-term future of the reactor -- and Japan's nuclear energy policy -- remains uncertain.

The government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said two of the offline units at the Oi , western Japan, are safe enough to restart and that they could help prevent power shortages in the hot summer months.

But it remains unclear if or when the government will gain approval from regional authorities to resume the reactors.

The Oi plant's operator, Kansai Electric Power, which supplies mid-western Japan, including the commercial hubs of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, has said it could face an electricity shortfall of almost 20 percent if temperatures soar in July.

And the utility said it could remain up to 16 percent short in August as increased air conditioner usage zaps the electricity produced by its thermal fuel plants.

Kyushu Electric Power, covering an area further west, as well as HEPCO in the north, also said they will not be able to meet summer demand without .

Increased use of thermal fuel plants hikes costs for utility firms, as well as greenhouse gas emissions for the country.

Critics of atomic energy point to continuing efficiencies that have allowed the world's third largest economy to all but shrug off previous dire warnings of shortages.

A series of anti-nuclear power demonstrations are planned on Saturday, the Children's Day national holiday in Japan, calling for a safer future for younger generations.

Explore further: Asian inventions dominate energy storage systems

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japan approves nuclear reactor restart

Aug 17, 2011

Japan on Wednesday approved the full resumption of commercial operations of an atomic reactor for the first time since the March 11 quake and tsunami sparked the Fukushima nuclear accident.

80% in Japan 'support nuclear phase-out'

Mar 18, 2012

Eighty percent of Japanese want to phase out the country's reliance on nuclear power and eventually eliminate it, a poll said Sunday, a year after Japan was hit by a massive nuclear disaster.

Thousands protest against nuclear power in Japan

Jan 15, 2012

About 2,000 demonstrators hit the streets of Yokohama on Saturday calling for an end to nuclear energy in Japan after the March 11 disaster that sparked the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.

Small fire at Japan nuclear lab; no radiation leak

Dec 20, 2011

A building housing an experimental nuclear reactor in Japan caught fire Tuesday, but there was no leak of radioactive materials, officials said, amid nervousness over Japan's atomic industry.

Radioactive water leaked at second Japan plant

Dec 11, 2011

A Japanese nuclear plant leaked 1.8 tonnes of radioactive water from its cooling system, the government said, heightening safety worries as an atomic crisis continues at another plant.

Recommended for you

Where's the real value in Tesla's patent pledge?

17 minutes ago

With the much-anticipated arrival next month of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla's Model S to Australian shores, it's a good time to revisit Tesla's pledge to freely share patents. ...

New type of solar concentrator desn't block the view

14 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through ...

Asian inventions dominate energy storage systems

15 hours ago

In recent years, the number of patent applications for electrochemical energy storage technologies has soared. According to a study by the Technical University Munich, the largest volume of applications is ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) May 04, 2012
If you look at the pictures of the tsunami stricken areas just under a year later I find it believable that japan can change its energy infrastructure in short order:
http://www.thesun...-on.html
(I was alread baffled how quickly they rebuilt after the Kobe earthquake)

The potential for wind, wave and geothermal should be immense.