News

Japan Shuts Down Last Nuclear Reactor

Wind turbines stand along the 50-kilometer (31-mile)-long Sadamisaki Peninsula in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, which will now become more important as Japan shuts down its last operating nuclear power reactor, December 2, 2011 (file photo).
Wind turbines stand along the 50-kilometer (31-mile)-long Sadamisaki Peninsula in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, which will now become more important as Japan shuts down its last operating nuclear power reactor, December 2, 2011 (file photo).

Nearly 14 months after a powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl, Japan is shutting down the last of its nuclear reactors.  After the accident, the Japanese government imposed safety tests on all nuclear power plants. But public concerns about their safety have slowed down the process to restart the reactors, leaving Japan's nuclear industry with an uncertain future.

For the first time in 42 years, the portion of nuclear power in Japan’s energy mix is set to reach zero on Saturday night, when the last of the country’s 50 commercial reactors is taken offline at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido.

After the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the Japanese government imposed inspections known as stress tests on all nuclear reactors. One by one, they were required to shut down to check their resistance to earthquakes and tsunamis.

The first reactors to have cleared the process were units 3 and 4 at the Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan. In early April, the government decided they were ready to go back online, as explained by the deputy cabinet secretary for public relations Noriyuki Shikata.

"We have learned enough about the cause of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP and also what needs to be done in the case of the Ohi NPP supposing that a severe accident could take place at those locations," said Shikata.

Despite the government seal of approval none of the cleared reactors have been restarted.

The government argues that without nuclear power, parts of Japan - including the central Kansai region, where the Ohi plant is located - would suffer severe power shortages this summer.

However, local residents are not sure they want to see those reactors back online yet.

Opinion polls, both in Fukui Prefecture and at the national level, indicate a majority of the public is opposed to an immediate restart of nuclear plants. The governors of neighboring prefectures demand stronger guarantees and safety measures. They also question the idea that the Kansai region needs the reactors to make it through the summer.

Deputy Cabinet Secretary Shikata says the government hasn’t settled on a definite deadline for restarts. He says Tokyo remains committed to a "very intensive dialogue" with a broad base of stakeholders, including Fukui’s neighboring prefectures.

Shikata admits that failure to restart the Ohi plant before the summer is now among the scenarios considered by the government.

"We think it is appropriate and desirable to restart the Ohi NPP," added Shikata.   "At the same time, we are assuming that no NPPs will be operating and the hot summer could come. If there continues to be very strong opposition or reservations, we will need to continue to engage the public, and this could be in the longer run reflected in the long-term energy mix for our economy or for our country."

In the meantime, Japan is compensating for the energy shortfall by relying on costly imports of coal, oil and natural gas. A situation that undermines Japan’s energy security, its economy, and the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jonathan Huang
May 05, 2012 6:41 PM
They should stop using any energy and become fully green, lol

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs