16 September 2013

Japan Nuclear Free, Last Operating Reactor Shut Down

In the evening of 15 September 2013, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) shut down the last operating nuclear reactor in Japan. Unit 4 of the Ohi nuclear power plant was closed for maintenance, refueling and upgrading less than two weeks after unit 3 was shut down. Japanese regulation requires the shutdown of reactors at least once every 13 months. Some analysts saythat the “nuclear freeze” will last at least until January 2014, following the issuance of new safety regulation in July 2013. The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun writes: “The uncertainty about the future of nuclear energy stems mainly from the fact the Abe administration has yet to offer a clear picture of the extent to which Japan will depend on this form of power generation in years to come.” The journal points at the contradiction in the Prime Minister’s policy that, on one hand, pushes for restarts and supports nuclear technology exports and, on the other hand, announces: “We will reduce the ratio of electric power generated by nuclear energy. Over about three years, we will make every effort to accelerate the spread of renewable energy sources and promote energy conservation.” Any restart of any of the 50 stranded reactors will need the approval of the local authorities, municipalities and prefectures. Considering the strong public opposition, approval cannot be taken for granted.