Japan Goes Nuclear-Free For the First Time in Four Decades

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Japan shut down its last working nuclear power station last weekend, culminating — at least for now — a national shift away from nuclear energy in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster.

The shutdown of the No. 3 Tomari reactor in Hokkaido will leave the country without nuclear power for the first time since 1970. Given public concerns about nuclear safety, it may become difficult to switch the plants back on if the country makes it through the summer months without power shortages or blackouts.

“Can it be the end of nuclear power [in Japan]? It could be,” Andrew DeWitt, a professor of energy and policy at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, told Reuters. Before the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.

While Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has suggested the country cannot afford to go without nuclear power for the long term, the government has no timetable to switch the plants back on and the country has yet to develop a long-term, nuclear-free energy policy.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

8 Comments

  1. I believe this is a prime example of just how far conservation and energy efficiency can reduce energy consumption. Taking 30% out of the grid and still having power is a significant accomplishment.

    Maybe it’s time for American to follow suit; can we shut down some of the more dirty coal plants and still get along just fine? Just a thought.

  2. And the world did not come to an end?

    Japan makes it possible for all of us to hope for a better tomorrow. Americas nuclear disaster is waiting in the wings and the clock is ticking.

    • I believe your comment that a ‘nuclear disaster is waiting in the wings’ could be at least in part correct. Having worked in the nuclear power industry for 20 years, mistakes do happen almost every day.

      However, it is the multiple redundant safety systems that keep simple mistakes from becoming an accident. It’s all about statistical probabilities since humans,regardless of how well they are trained, do make mistakes.

      • My brother also worked in a Colorado Nuclear plant until they shut it down. It was a “new” design and had lots of problems. Digging in to old memory here, but I believe the best they ever achieved was 35% of performance and the decision finally was to shut it down.

        That was a lot of taxpayer money for a failure. France apparently uses the same design every time.

        There was a recent report that the NRA had a report able incident once a month. Granted some of those incidents may not have been serious but with every plant we have storing rods that they should not be because of waste problems. We are asking for trouble.

        My mama told me “never ever make a mess you cannot clean up”. Seems like really good advice anytime you are dealing with energy.

  3. Now Japan is producing Nuclear free power, I would like to know, is thereis any change in power tariff, consumer pint of view.

  4. Rizwan:

    I think this paragraph from the original Reuters article is a good example of what happens when you shut down lots of nuclear plants.

    “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.”

    • Thanks for the link. Nice to read the article at an age that I understand the problem. I was in my teens at the time..

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