From Yahoo business news, a report on the imminent shutdown of Japan’s last running nuclear reactor this Sunday.
Japan has 54 nuclear power reactors, including the four at Tokyo Electric’s Daiichi plant in Fukushima that were damaged in the earthquake and tsunami, culminating in three meltdowns and radiation leaks for the worst civilian nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
One by one the country’s nuclear plants have been shut for scheduled maintenance and prevented from restarting because of public concern about their safety.
The last one running, the No3 Tomari reactor of Hokkaido Electric Power Co in northern Japan, is scheduled to shut down early on Sunday. Anti-nuclear activists will celebrate with demonstrations over the weekend.
The last time Japan went without nuclear power was in May 1970, when the country’s only two reactors operating at that time were shut for maintenance, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan says.
Nuclear power provided almost 30 percent of the electricity to keep the $5 trillion economy going before the March 11, 2011 disaster that killed almost 16,000 people and left more than 3,000 missing.
A year on, the level of public concern about the safety of the industry is such that the government is still struggling to come up with a long-term energy policy, a delay having a profound impact on the economy and underlining just how costly it will be to contemplate a nuclear-power-free future.
Having boomed in recent decades on the exports prowess of big brands like Sony, Toyota and Canon, the economy suffered its first trade deficit in more than three decades in 2011 as power producers spent billions of dollars on oil-and-gas imports to fuel extra generation capacity.
At the time of the Fukushima crisis, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on Japan to wean itself off of nuclear power. Up to that point, Japan had been planning to lift the share of nuclear generation to over 50 percent by 2030 from about 30 percent.
The government of current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has softened Kan’s call. Noda says Japan cannot afford to be nuclear free, although he still holds that as an ideal.
But the government has no clear timetable for getting nuclear power back up and running as it tries to navigate the public opposition — rare in Japan — and the demands of business that wants a stable supply of power.
Cabinet ministers last month rushed to try to win over the public to allow the restart of two nuclear power reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co’s Ohi plant in western Japan, in what experts said was a recognition of the implications of a nuclear-free summer.
The public remained unconvinced. A poll by Kyodo news agency last weekend showed about 60 percent of the public opposed to restarting the two reactors.