Japan to be nuclear free again as last reactor goes offline

TOKYO —

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 work started at 4:40 p.m.,” said a spokesman for Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO), with the shutdown leaving the world’s third largest economy without nuclear energy for the second time since the Fukushima crisis erupted in March 2011.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has openly supported the use of nuclear energy, but the public has remained largely opposed to it for fears of possible serious accidents.

Kansai Electric will gradually take offline the No. 4 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. The reactor is expected to stop power generation after several hours before coming to a complete stop early Monday, according to the utility.

Japan previously was without any nuclear energy in May 2012, when all of the country’s 50 commercial reactors had stopped for scheduled checkups, with utilities unable to restart them due to public opposition.

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

Last year, government officials and utilities voiced concerns that Japan could experience major blackouts without nuclear power, particularly in the western region that relied heavily on nuclear energy.

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

The reactors were reactivated in July 2012 and resumed full commercial operation the following month, while other reactors have remained idled all along.

Japan has turned to fossil-fuel alternatives to fill the gap left by the shutdown of atomic plants, which had supplied about one-third of the resource-poor nation’s electricity before the Fukushima disaster.

Utilities have raised power fees to cover increased fuel costs for thermal plants while reactors remain offline.

(C) 2013 AFP

  • 2

    StormR

    No nukes is good nukes

  • 11

    Samuel Mikenga

    The move will leave the world’s third largest economy without nuclear for the second time since the Fukushima crisis erupted in March 2011.

    And who needs nuclear anyway? Who wants an energy source, whose effects we shall live with for thousands of years? Once sold as the best cheap soluion to global energy, it has proven expensive, anti-people, disruptive, ecologically suicidal, dirty and unsustainable. This has forced countries with better leadership to downsize on nuclear energy and seek aleternative sources....

  • 6

    edojin

    Have no fear nuclear lovers ... Prime Minister Abe has vowed to get the nuclear reactors going again. So what we are seeing is probably a temporary pause before he gets them all cranked up again and back on-line.

    For anti-nuclear lovers, better take a deep breath of fresh air 'cause this is probably only a short turn-off.

  • 3

    smithinjapan

    Keep them off -- especially when the government is now FINALLY trying to do something about Fukushima.

  • -1

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Thank god!! Or thank the Buddha! Anyway time for Japan to change!! and LEARN from te horrible mess in FUKUSHIMA!!

  • 0

    StormR

    I dont like nuke technology myself but getting the power plants back online is crucial to abes plan and without them the costs of importing the oil will cripple the place. Unfortunately that is how it is, i would rather no nuke power plants but reality is different.

  • 2

    Elbuda Mexicano

    And too much radiation will NOT cripple the place (JAPAN) and the rest of OUR world??

  • 0

    theResident

    I have given thumbs up to StormR. I don't like the power planets either! (who does?) but until there is actually another form of energy available in a large enough quantity to power Japan that WON'T cripple it economically they will have to go back on at some point. I love the people who talk about 'alternative' energy..they can't actually tell you what it is!! That's because nobody knows yet and we, are very unlikely to in the short term future.

  • 2

    unhealthierjapanese

    Don't use nuclear power plants if you cannot master it, Mr. Abe!

  • 0

    slumdog

    I don't like the power planets either! (who does?)

    Resident of the Power Ranger Planet?

  • -2

    Shumatsu_Samurai

    The safety concern is a valid argument against nuclear power, but the power source is as safe as the people supplying it. There's no reason why Japan can't use nuclear power safely. What happened at Fukushima was preventable.

    If Japanese people don't trust the authorities to run nuclear power, they will have to accept higher electricity prices and/or more CO2 production. Let's not forget that the immediate replacement for nuclear power is dirty fuel which will slowly kill our planet.

  • 1

    Kent Mcgraw

    The thing that I see is things are not just about nuclear reactors but people are getting tired of elected officials. See it any way you wish but you elect a person and then have to live with what they do. Abe is for more nuclear energy, that is because they want to export the nuclear technology which does nothing for the people in Japan but just a few large corporations that do not even employ many people and are not looking to hire. I do not think Japan will be nuclear free, there is too much money in it for the politicians.

  • 1

    gaijinfo

    Yep, we all love the nuke free, green world.

    Just don't start complaining when the economy tanks, because ALL energy now has to be imported, with steadily weakening Yen.

    Nothing's free. Nukes come with a cost. Shutting down Nukes in a country who's economy is based on energy independence also comes at a cost.

  • 0

    plasticmonkey

    no immediate plan to restart it due to to public hostility towards atomic power.

    The people should be deciding this issue, one way or another. This is good news!

  • 10

    Serrano

    "Nukes come with a cost"

    And Fukushima has cost Japan dearly.

  • -3

    hkitagawa

    no nukes=global warming

  • 3

    Serrano

    "no nukes=global warming"

    I doubt that, but one sure thing no nukes means is no extremely dangerous and costly accidents on the scale of Fukushima.

  • 2

    gaijinfo

    And Fukushima has cost Japan dearly.

    Fukushima, nor the nuclear reactors, per se, were responsible.

    It was the idiots who designed it, and put in on an Earthquake fault.

    Nuclear energy is not inherently dangerous, if handled correctly and proper safety is maintained.

    It's a bit more complicated than throwing your hands up in the air and saying "Nukes bad! Green energy good!"

    Green energy still requires government subsidies, since it is not profitable, and Japan will suffer severe economic consequences for having to now import ALL of its energy.

  • -1

    LSpiro

    I am neither anti- nor pro- nuclear.

    I don’t care either way, as I am also unable to weigh the immediate consequences easily visible through major events vs. the slow consequences of fossil fuels.

    There is no propaganda. No one can measure which is better in the long-run, but pro-nuclear people never seem to chime in.

    I think both sides are ridiculous until one side can prove the other wrong.

  • 1

    Francis Urquhart

    Once sold as the best cheap soluion to global energy, it has proven expensive, anti-people, disruptive, ecologically suicidal, dirty and unsustainable.

    In all fairness, it probably is still all those things if manages safely and contained. The problems occur when things go wrong, and there is always a margin for error - to err is human, which is probably why humans shouldn't be playing with it!

    I don't like the power planets either! (who does?) but until there is actually another form of energy available in a large enough quantity to power Japan that WON'T cripple it economically they will have to go back on at some point.

    Of course, they could always switch off some of the unnecessary lights! Big, pink signs etc.

    The safety concern is a valid argument against nuclear power, but the power source is as safe as the people supplying it. There's no reason why Japan can't use nuclear power safely. What happened at Fukushima was preventable.

    Japan is more susceptible to so called 'acts of God' that a lot of other places making it a bad bet for trouble-free nuclear power even with the best technology and resources. They've got 54 reactors! What on earth for?

  • 2

    kaimycahl

    Regardless nukes or no nukes energy cost will soar and nothing will change im looking forward to reading the future complaints here

  • -3

    LSpiro

    Eiji Takano

    Don't be stupid. Abe's plan is not worth ruining the world with yet another nuclear accident.

    That’s…an awkward take on the situation.

    Chernobyl was far worse, but the “world” seems to be in good condition anyway. There are 437 nuclear reactors online right now. In the last 58 years, 3 (three) have created major incidences and only 1 (one) has created an incident about which the world cares (Fukushima, due to its potential release into the ocean, even though levels will have been saturated enough as to not be lethal). Chernobyl and 3-Mile Island were entirely contained, which is what we would easily expect of any other future accident.

    1 out of 437 reactors broke, and only because of an earthquake that was the 5th largest in the history of earthquakes’ recordings? And the result is that a little bit of radiation—though small enough that the fish can still be eaten—will be fed into the ocean?

  • 0

    sf2k

    This should be celebrated in a parade. Now go with thermals (particularly hydrothermal like Deep Lake Water Cooling except around the coastline) and solar. Molten salt can store the solar energy 24/7. The same tech that makes flatscreen TVs makes solar panels. Insisting that 1/3 of TV production go to solar panel production would get the ball rolling.

    If you do the least you can do, the energy situation can slowly change off nuclear and reduce oil imports. The oil imports would be multiplied in solar production. But do nothing and nothing will come of nothing. Gee I wonder which the LDP will do? It's a toughie, I know

  • 1

    CrazyJoe

    It never rains but it pours. No country has ever been tormented so much in history like Japan (by radioactivity).

  • -3

    LSpiro

    We have no idea what will happen if the nuclear fuel rod pool collapses on the Fukushima nuclear plant, which will cause an uncontrollable spread of radiation.

    So on the one hand we have environmental problems “if this” or “if that” (using nuclear). On the other hand we have environmental problems “if…” (using coal or fossil fuels). If nothing. They are guaranteed.

    It’s a bit hard to argue this. One hand has environmental problems only under certain conditions, while the other has environmental problems no matter what.

    If we eliminate the potential hazards from nuclear reactors then there is not a single benefit to be gained from fossil fuels/coal. The way to proceed forward is fairly obvious, and it’s not to run away from the problem, it’s to learn from it.

    And Miller was exactly correct when he stated that the main reason this ever got out of hand in the first place was because of the Japanese way of doing things. The hierarchical structure in Japan has its high points, but it gets in the way under these circumstances.

    To be blunt, there are things we (the world) could do better when handling nuclear technology, but there are things Japan could do better when trying to contain nuclear fall-out. There are multiple lessons to be learned from multiple parties.

    But if we assume that these lessons will actually be learned (which it is clear they are) then we can safely assume that future technology will provide green energy at no risk.

    We will never reach such a point if conservatives are trying to hold everyone back. In scenario #1, after 1,000 years, we’ve made a few mistakes and contaminated a few parts of the world, but finally we have fully green energy and no threat of further contamination. 90% of the world is clean. In scenario #2, conservatives have won out, and we reverted to coal and fossil fuels. After 1,000 years, the earth is basically dead from 1,000 years of non-stop pollution.

    Again, fairly obvious.

  • 3

    philly1

    The headline is misleading. Idle plants do not make a nuclear free Japan. To think so is to live in delusion.

  • 0

    ZombieNemesis

    Consider the 10 main sources* of energy in the world today, and their respective percentage of the worlds energy consumption. Crude Oil 32%, Coal 29%, Natural Gas 22%, Nuclear 8%, Hydroelectric 6%, Biomass 1%, Wind <1%, Biofuels <1%, Solar (4/10th of 1%), Geothermal (2/10th of 1%).

    All of them have pros and cons.

    Which of these makes Japan energy independent? Which of these represents an energy source that is easily stored? Which of these are even viable in Japan?

    It is interesting to see that wind and solar energy combined make up only 1% of the worlds energy. Why? Is it that you can not easily store the energy? Is it because the sun doesn't always shine, that wind doesn't always blow. That it takes vast tracks of land to build solar and wind farms? Or is it purely political?

    Does Japan cover Fukushima with solar panels to offset the Nuclear power? Or does Japan import more fossil fuels?

    What happens when an earthquake damages this, and it blows up? http://japandailypress.com/worlds-largest-lng-storage-tank-built-by-tokyo-gas-in-yokohama-1425119/

    *Obviously solar and geothermal energy indirectly power everything, but this is in regards to how we power our cities, homes and transportation.

  • 1

    Dr Dillner

    Without nuclear power, Japan will need to import more fuel to survive! That is a greater pressure on imports -- not good for the economy.

  • -3

    Heda_Madness

    And who needs nuclear anyway? Who wants an energy source, whose effects we shall live with for thousands of years? Once sold as the best cheap soluion to global energy, it has proven expensive, anti-people, disruptive, ecologically suicidal, dirty and unsustainable. This has forced countries with better leadership to downsize on nuclear energy and seek aleternative sources...

    Whilst Japan does need to look for alternative sources, I think you’re forgetting that as a planet we have and still use an energy source that have done untold damage to the planet and continues to do so. Tens of thousands more people die a year through the use of fossil fuels than nuclear. As a result of Japan now turning off all of it’s nuclear power plants it has increased the demand for fossil fuels. So if you want to talk about ecological suicide then you should look at the alternatives.

  • 0

    praack

    not really many choices for an island nation, you can live with the pollution and extra cost and build out lots of coal and oil sites again like the old days.

    not enough land to put up enough windmills to generate power- and of course you would destroy landmarks

    geothermal? limited - and of course having to drill deeply for thermal transfer

    no solution is 100%, so right now you have brownouts, not enough air conditioning in the summer, not enough heat in the winter, if you build out the coal sites and oil sites again- then you will enjoy grey snow again- just don't complain

  • 0

    Thunderbird2

    @LSpiro

    There are 437 nuclear reactors online right now. In the last 58 years, 3 (three) have created major incidences and only 1 (one) has created an incident about which the world cares (Fukushima, due to its potential release into the ocean, even though levels will have been saturated enough as to not be lethal). Chernobyl and 3-Mile Island were entirely contained, which is what we would easily expect of any other future accident.

    1 out of 437 reactors broke, and only because of an earthquake that was the 5th largest in the history of earthquakes’ recordings? And the result is that a little bit of radiation—though small enough that the fish can still be eaten—will be fed into the ocean?

    While I agree with you (apart from Chernobyl) I think you are wasting your time trying to be reasonable. Japan is a modern first world nation with a strong manufacturing base - as a result it needs power... NOW. Not in ten years time.

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