Japan to be nuclear-free as last reactor switched off

Kansai Electric Power Co engineers check readings at the Oi nuclear power plant, Fukui prefecture, July 19, 2012
File photo taken on July 19, 2012 shows Kansai Electric Power Co. engineers checking the readings after Unit No.4 reactor at the company's Oi nuclear power plant in the town of Oi, Fukui prefecture. Japan began to switch off its last working nuclear reactor at Oi on Sunday for an inspection with no immediate plan for restart amid high public hostility towards atomic power.

Japan on Sunday began switching off its last operating nuclear reactor for an inspection, with no date scheduled for a restart amid strong public hostility towards atomic power.

The move will leave the world's third largest economy without atomic energy for the second time since the Fukushima erupted in March 2011.

Nuclear power supplied about one-third of the resource-poor nation's electricity before a tsunami knocked out and sparked meltdowns at Fukushima, causing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly supported a return to the widespread use of , but the public remains largely opposed on safety grounds.

Kansai Electric Power (KEPCO) Sunday started gradually to take offline the No. 4 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant in the western prefecture of Fukui.

"The work started at 4:40pm (0740 GMT)," said a company spokesman. "The reactor will come to a complete stop early tomorrow (Monday)."

Japan previously was without any nuclear energy in May 2012, when all of the country's 50 commercial reactors stopped for checkups in the wake of the disaster.

Utilities were unable immediately to restart them due to .

It was the first time in more than four decades that Japan had been without nuclear power.

Government officials and utilities voiced concern at the time that Japan could face major blackouts without nuclear power, particularly in the western region that relied heavily on nuclear energy.

Their fears proved unfounded but the government last year gave Kansai Electric approval to restart No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi plant, arguing that nuclear energy was necessary to meet increased during the winter.

Image taken by TEPCO on September 13, 2013 shows workers taking apart a contamination water tank at the Fukushima plant
Image taken by TEPCO on September 13, 2013 shows workers preparing to take apart a contamination water tank where radioactive materials were leaked at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Japan began switching off the nation's last working nuclear reactor Sunday for a routine inspection, with no immediate plan to restart it due to to public hostility towards atomic power.

The reactors were reactivated in July 2012 and resumed full commercial operation the following month, but the No. 3 reactor was shut down earlier this month for a scheduled inspection. The nation's other reactors have remained idle.

Utilities this summer have submitted applications to restart their reactors with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which has significantly upgraded safety standards since the Fukushima crisis.

The central government and utilities will seek the consent of local governments and communities hosting nuclear plants before any future restarts.

The No. 3 reactor at the Ikata in Ehime prefecture in the southwestern Shikoku region may come back online early next year, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper said.

The Asahi Shimbun meanwhile said the reactor at Ikata might resume operation in "the coming winter".

Anti-nuclear campaigner Greenpeace Japan said the country must seize the opportunity of being without nuclear power to focus on promoting renewable energy.

"Having zero running nuclear reactors is proof that we do not need nuclear plants," Junichi Sato, executive director of the environmental group in Japan, said in a statement Friday.

He urged the government not to rush to restart reactors and to focus on containing the ongoing atomic crisis at Fukushima, and helping those evacuated to avoid exposure to radiation.

"Going without nuclear energy for the second time is a major opportunity for Japan to become a leading nation for renewable energy," Sato said.

But utilities have called for the swift restart of reactors to ensure stable electricity supplies.

"In order to maintain stable supplies, we believe it is necessary for nuclear to play its role" as a key energy source, Makoto Yagi, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies in Japan, said Friday.

He is also the president of Kansai Electric.

Japan has turned to expensive fossil-fuel alternatives to fill the gap left by the shutdown of atomic plants.

Utilities have raised charges to cover increased fuel costs for thermal plants.

Radiation was spread over homes and farmland in a large area of northern Japan when the massive tsunami hit Fukushima on March 11, 2011.

No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the meltdowns, but tens of thousands were evacuated and many remain so.

Some areas are expected to be uninhabitable for decades.

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Japan heads back to nuclear zero for reactor checkups

© 2013 AFP

Citation: Japan to be nuclear-free as last reactor switched off (2013, September 15) retrieved 19 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-09-japan-nuclear-free-reactor.html
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User comments

Sep 15, 2013
Dont know whats wrong with todays scientific community. Every technology comes with faults and disadvantages, the job of scientists lies in identifying the right ways to harness and make use of it for the betterment of mankind. Nuclear technology is essential if the humanity has to survive the dwindling fossil fuels. By shutting down the nuclear plants, scientists only want to say they dont know how to use it. The challenge before scientists lies in finding out the appropriate way of harnessing this energy instead of closing it down.

Sep 15, 2013
This is good. We need to preserve this valuable material for use in nuclear thermal propulsion, earth borers, and prepackaged colony reactors as we begin to settle off-planet. Nuclear-powered robotics can begin moving and processing asteroids and comets.

There are plenty of clean and competitive alternatives now available to sustain civilization without continuing to waste uranium and plutonium.

In the future people will thank the 20th century for having the prescience to produce the 8000-10000 tons of fissionables we currently possess.

Sep 15, 2013
"Having zero running nuclear reactors is proof that we do not need nuclear plants,"

Just like an empty water bottle is proof that we don't need to drink.

All electric grids are over-provisioned to function during failure, so you aren't completely dependent on any single source of energy anyhow.

Sep 15, 2013
They are deluding themselves if they think renewables will fill the the void left by nuclear power. Coal and oil will fill it. Gas, if Greenpeace is lucky.

Sep 15, 2013
IMHO, the Japanese are making a tragic mistake. The Fukushima reactors are over 40 years old and had design flaws that are entirely laughable if not tragic. Who would think of putting a nuclear plant on the coast in a tsunami zone with backup diesel power located in the basement of the structure? A fifth grader can see the flaw in design. Yet, it still took 40 years for it to bear its ugly fruit. There are far safer nuke designs available today than there were when Fukushima was built. The Japanese public is reacting out of emotion and its understandable. But clearer minds must prevail.

Sep 15, 2013
Dont know whats wrong with todays scientific community. ..

I don't think this is a mistake on the part of scientists. In my opinion this is a failure on the part of Japanese politicians, who gave into the pressures of a panicky public.

Sep 15, 2013
You people have drank the coolaid. We are going to have to explain to future generations.... if there are any.....after those fuel rods ignite....why we poisoned the planet and ruined their lives.....and for what? For greed, for science, for a cheaper cup of Starbucks? You are worried about losing nuclear power when the troubles from Fukushima have only just begun.

Sep 15, 2013
germany now japan going non-nuclear. germany taking the full plunge.

both of these countries lost world war 2 and remain under american occupation. both of these countries, but japan especially are now suffering tremendous financial strain to pay for higher energy costs.

japan , is being prodded by china, and russia is slowly isolating germany from the rest of europe in order to place a wedge between germany and the rest of europe along with the u.s.

energy economics are the heart of a tectonic shift in geopolitics. it's not just 'oil' wars. It's energy wars.

Sep 15, 2013
"Mein Führer! I can walk! "

Sep 15, 2013
For those who have drank the nuclear coolaid ;-)
Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem.

Sep 15, 2013
I read in a BBC article that household electricity costs have gone up around 30% since the nuclear shutdowns
Well now the people know the true cost of nuclear. Higher prices will spur more innovation in renewables and sustainables!
There are far safer nuke designs available today than there were when Fukushima was built.
Comparable to declaring there are far safer designs for suicide now. Nuclear doesn't belong in near populated areas because it's fucking insanity to pup large amounts of unshieldable radiation in proximity to people. Of course nuclear propeller heads see people as expendable. Even accepting that Nazi premise, radiation destroys the human genome and it's effects are permanent. Like Humpty, people can't be put together again

Sep 15, 2013
Japan industries is totally capable to produce different source of energy (like solar and geothermal). It is not like they suddenly going helpless if without nuclear reactor!

And nuclear power is totally crude power source anyway... its just a like fossil fuel where you have to mine a finite resources except for the grave safety concern...

Sep 16, 2013
Nuclear technology is essential

Where do you get that idea? Nuclear is a technology among many that can generate power. It is by no means indispensable (or the only thing that can replace coal/oil/gas).

They are deluding themselves if they think renewables will fill the the void left by nuclear power.

Japan - probably more so than any other country - has huge (off shore) wind, and wave generating potential as well as geothermal if they want to go that way (which is dicey as that seems to correlate with earthquakes - and if there's one thing Japan doesn't need any more of it's earthquakes)
They have large mountainous areas that aren't fit fo agriculture which could be used for solar or wind.

What's more: They have the engineering know-how and the industrial base to make it happen in a relatively short time.

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