Japan shutting down all nuclear plants
Tokyo - A power plant operator said on Wednesday that it had shut down a nuclear reactor in Niigata prefecture, central Japan, for regular checkups, which would leave only four of the nation's 54 reactors in service.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) suspended reactor 5 of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, leaving only one out of a total of 17 reactors run by the utility in operation, it said.
All 17 reactors will go offline by the end of March, when reactor 6 at the plant is halted for checkups, the utility said.
As Japanese utilities have shut down their reactors for regular inspection, accidents or maintenance, they have been unable to reactivate them amid growing public concerns about atomic power following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, also run by Tepco.
The Fukushima plant was hit by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which triggered the crisis, leading meltdowns at three of its six reactors.
All 54 reactors in Japan are scheduled to be suspended for servicing by the end of April 2012. Unless a utility restarts one, none will be left running after that.
Last week, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency endorsed the positive stress test results for two suspended nuclear reactors at Oi Nuclear Power Station in Fukui prefecture, central Japan.
In a stress test, utilities assess to what degree their reactors are capable of withstanding natural disasters such as an earthquake or tsunami.
The decision was the first since the government announced in July that safety assessments on reactors across the country would be conducted in two stages in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Before the disaster, around 30% of Japan's electricity was nuclear generated.