9 May 2012

Last Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Closed

On 5 May 2012 the last nuclear power plant in Japan closed. As planned, Tomari-3 in Hokkaido was taken off the grid for maintenance, safety inspections and refueling. While, in spite of intense government pressure, local authorities continue to oppose the restart plans for the Ohi-3 and -4 reactors in the Kansai region. Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa told the government that he would not allow restart without consulting local residents. The governors of Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga Prefectures as well as the powerful mayors of Osaka City, Kyoto City and Kobe also remain opposed to any short-term restart. On 28 April 66 mayors from 34 prefectures launched the network “Mayors for a Nuclear Free Japan” and add a powerful voice to the growing opposition to the restart of reactors. While there is no legal requirement for approval by the local authorities of nuclear operations, it is an unwritten law that they have to be “convinced” and grant their agreement prior to restart. In the meantime city councils and industry are preparing to meet the summer peak load without nuclear power with a multitude of energy conservation and efficiency measures that are under preparation and are being implemented by and by. From load management measures like moving to weekend work or starting an hour early to the installation of smart meters and energy efficient lighting. In the absence of clear national policy guidance, the energy revolution in Japan is frantically being undertaken on the decentralized level.