Japan closes final nuclear reactor

2012-05-05 17:00
Tokyo - A Japanese power firm has begun switching off the country's last working reactor, leaving it without nuclear power just over a year after the world's worst atomic accident in a quarter of a century.

As technicians close down the No. 3 unit at Tomari in Hokkaido, the debate over whether Japan needs nuclear power has been reignited, amid increasingly shrill warnings of summer power blackouts.

Hokkaido Electric Power, which runs the plant, said they started inserting control rods at 17:00 (08:00 GMT) that would halt the chain reaction and bring the reactor to "cold shutdown" some time on Monday.

"Power output started declining at the No. 3 unit," said Tomohiko Shibuya, a Hokkaido Electric Power spokesperson. "We have not heard of any trouble so far. Power generation there is scheduled to stop completely in about six hours."

Provided a third of Japan's electricity

The shuttering will mark the first time since the 1970s that resource-poor and energy-hungry Japan has been without nuclear power, a technology that had provided a third of its electricity until meltdowns at Fukushima.

The tsunami-sparked disaster forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in an area around the plant - some of whom may never be allowed to return.

It did not directly claim any lives, but has devastated the local economy, leaving swathes of land unfarmable as radiation spewed from the ruins.

With the four reactors at Fukushima crippled by the natural disaster public suspicion of nuclear power grew, so much so that no reactor shut for routine safety checks has since been allowed to restart.

"A new (era in) Japan with no nuclear power has begun," said Gyoshu Otsu, a 56-year-old monk who joined a protest against nuclear power in front of the industry ministry in Tokyo which supervises the nation's power utilities.

"Generating nuclear power is like a criminal act as a lot of people are still suffering," said Otsu wearing white Buddhist clothes. "If we allow the situation as it is now, another accident will occur."

Protest organiser Masao Kimura said: "It's a symbolic day today. Now we can prove that we will be able to live without nuclear power."

Separately, some 5 500 demonstrators staged a rally at a park near Tokyo Tower and later marched through central Tokyo carrying banners, which read: "Sayonara (Goodbye), nuclear power."

"We have to take action now so that Fukushima should be the last nuclear accident not only in Japan but all over the world," Mizuho Fukushima, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party, told AFP during the rally.

'Regrettable'

But Hiroomi Makino, the pro-nuclear mayor of Tomari, which hosts the reactor, said: "It's so regrettable. I would like the company to resume operation as I believe that they will give the highest priority to safety."

When generation stops late on Saturday, Japan's entire stable of 50 reactors will be offline, despite increasingly urgent calls from the power industry and bodies like the OECD, who fear dire consequences for the world's third largest economy.

Last month, Kansai Electric Power, which supplies mid-western Japan, including the commercial hubs of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, said a hot summer could see supply fall nearly 20% short of demand.

Kyushu Electric Power, covering an area further west, as well as Hokkaido Electric Power also said they will struggle as air conditioning gets cranked up in Japan's sweltering summer.

Kansai Electric last month booked a $3bn annual loss, turning around a $1.5bn profit the year earlier on the increased cost of using previously mothballed thermal fuel plants.

A week earlier, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government gave the green light to restarting reactors at the Oi nuclear plant, run by Kansai Electric, but regulators still have to convince those living near the plant.

In order to be fired up again, reactors must now pass International Atomic Energy Agency-approved stress tests and get the consent of their host communities -- it is this last hurdle that is proving hardest to overcome.

Critics of nuclear power say Japan has managed thus far with its ever dwindling pool of reactors and need not look back.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace said Friday the country should concentrate on ramping up renewables and boosting energy efficiency.

Read more on:    japan  |  nuclear  |  japan earthquake
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

LOL! Best outdoor girl fails

It’s not only guys who have FAIL moments! Here are some of the funniest outdoor fails where girls are the victims!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

90-year-old's incredible travels
10 facts about swimming you didn't know
Halloween night run
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There may be some tension that is caused through social conflicts -- personal interests versus obligations. You may feel an...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.