Tomari shutdown leaves Japan without nuclear power

 
Tomari nuclear plant, Hokkaido (file photo - Sept 2011) The last of the three reactors at the Tomari nuclear plant is being switched off

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Japan is switching off its last working nuclear reactor, as part of the safety drive since the March 2011 tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

The third reactor at the Tomari plant, in Hokkaido prefecture, is shutting down for routine maintenance.

It leaves Japan without energy from atomic power for the first time for more than 40 years.

Until last year, Japan got 30% of its power from nuclear energy.

Hundreds of people marched through Tokyo, waving banners to celebrate what they hope will be the end of nuclear power in Japan.

Power shortages

Start Quote

Not a single [nuclear reactor] will be up and running today, and that's because of our efforts”

End Quote Masashi Ishikawa Anti-nuclear campaigner

Since the Fukushima disaster, all the country's reactors have been shut down for routine maintenance. They must withstand tests against earthquakes and tsunamis, and local authorities must give their consent in order for plants to restart.

So far, none have.

Two reactors at the Ohi plant in western Japan have been declared safe. The government says they should be restarted to combat looming shortages.

However, regional authorities would still have to give their approval.

Ministers have warned Japan faces a summer of power shortages.

The BBC's Roland Buerk, in Tokyo, says the government could force the issue, but so far has been reluctant to move against public opinion.

Organisers of the anti-nuclear march in the capital estimated turnout at 5,500.

Demonstrators carried banners shaped as giant fish. The "Koinobori" banners, traditionally the symbol of Children's Day, have been adopted by the anti-nuclear movement.

Anti-nuclear doemonstrators in Tokyo carrying carp-shaped banner (5 May) Anti-nuclear demonstrators carried the carp-shaped banners that have become a symbol of their movement.

"There are so many nuclear plants, but not a single one will be up and running today, and that's because of our efforts," campaigner Masashi Ishikawa told the crowd.

Engineers began the process of shutting down the final Tomari reactor, inserting control rods to bring the fission process to an end.

All operations at the plant will have stopped by 14:00 GMT, a spokesman told Associated Press.

World's worst nuclear incidents

  • Level 7: Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1986 - explosion and fire in operational reactor, fallout over thousands of square kilometres, possible 4,000 cancer cases
  • Level 7: Fukushima, 2011 - tsunami and possibly earthquake damage from seismic activity beyond plant design. Long-term effects unknown
  • Level 6: Kyshtym, Russia, 1957 - explosion in waste tank leading to hundreds of cancer cases, contamination over hundreds of square kilometres
  • Level 5: Windscale, UK, 1957 - fire in operating reactor, release of contamination in local area, possible 240 cancer cases
  • Level 5: Three Mile Island, US, 1979 - instrument fault leading to large-scale meltdown, severe damage to reactor core

Japan will then be without nuclear power for the first time since 1970.

Businesses have warned of severe consequences for manufacturing if no nuclear plants are allowed to re-start.

In the meantime, Japan has increased its fossil fuel imports, with electricity companies pressing old power plants into service.

If the country can get through the steamy summer without blackouts, calls to make the nuclear shutdown permanent will get louder, our correspondent says.

The six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was badly damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Blasts occurred at four of the reactors after the cooling systems went offline, triggering radiation leaks and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.

A 20km (12m) exclusion zone remains in place around the plant.

 

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  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 434.

    We need nuclear power as an on demand low carbon power source. It is less risky than coal in terms of lives lost mining and trucking and avoids the carbon problems of coal and oil. We are going to need 40% of our power from on demand sources to supplement the wind and solar. We just need to make sure we are doing it openly and well. We can't let fear and ignorance drive the decisions.

  • rate this
    -34

    Comment number 301.

    Japan just turned off its last working reactor “talk about shutting the gate after the horse has bolted!” but it is a big step in the right direction and the rest of the world will follow Japans push for an end to Shelved Patents, and research into Geo Thermal and Carbon based Nanotechnology which both show promise of clean inexpensive energy sources.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 294.

    People who don't even understand the difference between nuclear fission (as used in power stations) and nuclear fusion (as used in some types of bomb) don't have a right to comment. Without nuclear power, we as an advanced civilisation are stuffed. It's that simple.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 101.

    Instead of completely getting rid of Nuclear power, I guess it would not be a bad idea if we use this powerful energy wisely and safely. Relying too much on traditional energy increases the damage to our environment and it's unsustainable. Some renewable energys like wind energy or tide energy is not powerful enough to guarentee the needs of our basic consumption of power. It relies on Nuclear

  • rate this
    +65

    Comment number 93.

    The earthquake and tsunami caused the deaths of 20 000+ and pretty much wiped out Japans east coast. Too date the deaths caused from a release of radiation from fukushima equal zero.
    In the UK around 3000 people die a year on the roads. 3000 a year. Just in the UK. Across the world, 100 000+ annually.

    The publics perception of risk is fatally flawed, and could doom us all.

 

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