Japan Shuts Off Last Working Nuclear Reactor – For Now

September 15, 2013Japanby EW News Desk Team

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Japan has temporarily switched off its final working nuclear reactor in the western prefecture of Fukui for safety checks, marking only the second time in 40 years that the country will not have access to any nuclear power supply.

According to The BBC, Reactor 4 at the Ohi power plant in the western prefecture of Fukui was shut down in the early hours of Monday morning, as renewed concerns grew over the safety of nuclear power plants – arising from radioactive water leaks at Fukushima.

Since July 2012, only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors had been generating any electricity to consumers, with the other reactor – Reactor 3 also at Ohi – having gone offline last month as well for similar reasons.

Analysts say that it will take around six months to clear all of the required safety checks and legal hurdles introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Nuclear power once accounted for about 30 percent of Japan’s energy needs, though the country has begun importing more fossil fuels to make up for the energy shortfall.

The last time Japan was without any nuclear energy was in May 2012, when all of the country's 50 commercial reactors had stopped for scheduled checkups.

Although Reactor 3 and 4 at Ohi were allowed to restart once more in July 2012, the radiation leak at Fukushima – where an estimated 80,000 gallons of contaminated water has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day – may have necessitated another safety check.

Related: Fukushima Emergency Declared As Radioactive Water Seeps Into Ocean

Related: Japan Prepared To Dip Into Reserve Funds As Fukushima Crisis Worsens

Related: Fukushima Fallout: Does Nuclear Energy Still Have A Future?

Utilities have since raised power fees to consumers – by nearly 30 percent – in order to cover the increased cost for fossil fuels while the reactors remain offline.

Although public opinion has turned against nuclear energy, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is still keen to restart the reactors as the past two years has seen Japan wind up with a trade deficit, after more than three decades of uninterrupted surpluses, due to the increase in energy imports.

The government is spending $470 million to handle the recently reported leaks and contamination at Fukushima. That is on top of a $10.1 billion capital injection into the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co..

To put the reactors back online, power companies must now win approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The BBC reported that four utilities since applied to restart a total of 12 reactors.

Related: OECD Urges Japan to Restart Nuclear Plants

Related: Japan Nuclear Safety Regulators Received Funding From Industry: Report

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