Tomari shutdown leaves Japan without nuclear power

Tomari nuclear plant, Hokkaido (file photo - Sept 2011) The last of the three reactors at the Tomari nuclear plant is being switched off

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Japan is switching off its last working nuclear reactor, as part of the safety drive since the March 2011 tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

The third reactor at the Tomari plant, in Hokkaido prefecture, is shutting down for routine maintenance.

It leaves Japan without energy from atomic power for the first time for more than 40 years.

Until last year, Japan got 30% of its power from nuclear energy.

Hundreds of people marched through Tokyo, waving banners to celebrate what they hope will be the end of nuclear power in Japan.

Power shortages

Start Quote

Not a single [nuclear reactor] will be up and running today, and that's because of our efforts”

End Quote Masashi Ishikawa Anti-nuclear campaigner

Since the Fukushima disaster, all the country's reactors have been shut down for routine maintenance. They must withstand tests against earthquakes and tsunamis, and local authorities must give their consent in order for plants to restart.

So far, none have.

Two reactors at the Ohi plant in western Japan have been declared safe. The government says they should be restarted to combat looming shortages.

However, regional authorities would still have to give their approval.

Ministers have warned Japan faces a summer of power shortages.

The BBC's Roland Buerk, in Tokyo, says the government could force the issue, but so far has been reluctant to move against public opinion.

Organisers of the anti-nuclear march in the capital estimated turnout at 5,500.

Demonstrators carried banners shaped as giant fish. The "Koinobori" banners, traditionally the symbol of Children's Day, have been adopted by the anti-nuclear movement.

Anti-nuclear doemonstrators in Tokyo carrying carp-shaped banner (5 May) Anti-nuclear demonstrators carried the carp-shaped banners that have become a symbol of their movement.

"There are so many nuclear plants, but not a single one will be up and running today, and that's because of our efforts," campaigner Masashi Ishikawa told the crowd.

Engineers began the process of shutting down the final Tomari reactor, inserting control rods to bring the fission process to an end.

All operations at the plant will have stopped by 14:00 GMT, a spokesman told Associated Press.

World's worst nuclear incidents

  • Level 7: Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1986 - explosion and fire in operational reactor, fallout over thousands of square kilometres, possible 4,000 cancer cases
  • Level 7: Fukushima, 2011 - tsunami and possibly earthquake damage from seismic activity beyond plant design. Long-term effects unknown
  • Level 6: Kyshtym, Russia, 1957 - explosion in waste tank leading to hundreds of cancer cases, contamination over hundreds of square kilometres
  • Level 5: Windscale, UK, 1957 - fire in operating reactor, release of contamination in local area, possible 240 cancer cases
  • Level 5: Three Mile Island, US, 1979 - instrument fault leading to large-scale meltdown, severe damage to reactor core

Japan will then be without nuclear power for the first time since 1970.

Businesses have warned of severe consequences for manufacturing if no nuclear plants are allowed to re-start.

In the meantime, Japan has increased its fossil fuel imports, with electricity companies pressing old power plants into service.

If the country can get through the steamy summer without blackouts, calls to make the nuclear shutdown permanent will get louder, our correspondent says.

The six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was badly damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Blasts occurred at four of the reactors after the cooling systems went offline, triggering radiation leaks and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.

A 20km (12m) exclusion zone remains in place around the plant.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    67.Sue- "There seems to be an instinctive fear of nuclear power"

    Yep... too right! What’s your point Sue? Yet again our good old human instincts and of course the anti-nuclear campaigners are proved to be absolutely correct!

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    People on this forum seem to be very naive. Nuclear power is very safe. The reactors in Japan survived that massive earthquake without fault, it was only because the cooling pumps failed that the disaster happened. You can bleet on all you like about wind and tidal power but you need a nuclear power station to provide the base load and then other renewables to top it up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    People killed by 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami: 15,854.

    People killed globaly in 2011 by exposure to radioactivity: 0

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    103.Giles Jones - ".....There aren't any alternative to gas, coal and nuclear for the bulk of electricity generation. Electricity has to be produced on demand and can't be stored....."

    Not even remotely true - the National Gird alreay makes use of storage for times of excess production & many more methods are being researched as we speak...not least inflatable baloons tethered to the sea bed...

  • Comment number 104.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    >The future shouldn't be nuclear when there are other safer and greener >options.

    There aren't any alternative to gas, coal and nuclear for the bulk of electricity generation. Electricity has to be produced on demand and can't be stored. You can't use solar or wind to produce the bulk of electricity as they can't be simply switched on when you need power. If there's no wind there's no power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    More Uranium 238 and we will all be glowing in the dark !

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Instead of completely getting rid of Nuclear power, I guess it would not be a bad idea if we use this powerful energy wisely and safely. Relying too much on traditional energy increases the damage to our environment and it's unsustainable. Some renewable energys like wind energy or tide energy is not powerful enough to guarentee the needs of our basic consumption of power. It relies on Nuclear

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    And all the while no one reports in the mainstream news about the radiation levels in the Western US states, which people are measuring and reporting themselves. And no one mentions the extreme risks still posed by Fukushima either, the site is at near collapse, and the clean up barely started.
    Maybe this will force people to consider how we use energy, and it's about time. We consume too much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    We need to get our energy from somewhere, or live short, medieval lives. It seems to me that anyone who wants to turn off fission plants needs to decide how the lights stay on when fossil fuels run out. This comes down to arithmetic, and luckily for us, there is a free handy guide at - do your own sums and choose an answer that adds up. Fission simply generates lots of energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    No nuclear, should have this world wide, harness the tides & start using AIR combustive Engines where possable

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    @87 I've grandchildren but I don't call it short-sighted to prefer to not live under a black cloud of DOOM. Some may consider it naïve, but I can acknowledge the risks without having to spend my life quaking in my boots. I worry far more about wars leading to fuel shortages than I do about being irradiated.
    Yes, the world is wonderful, but it will not always be as it is now. It's called geology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    82 pancha chandra

    Its an interesting argument but miss placed

    The system we live within needs more & more energy but are people demanding it. We seem to have the intelligence to create a less energy dependant "economy" but R lead into 1 which demands more

    The UKs 1930s national grid is V V waste full & was built to encourage debt/ the consumption of elec cookers etc NOT the other way around

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Fear of nuclear power is unfounded. Per kWh power generated, even solar power has more deaths/injuries (from falling presumably) than nuclear power. What people don't realize is 1) Newer nuclear power plant designs are incapable of melt down, current nuclear stations just need to be replaced and safety issue is out of window. 2) Coal fired plants emit more radiation DIRECTLY to the environment

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    The earthquake and tsunami caused the deaths of 20 000+ and pretty much wiped out Japans east coast. Too date the deaths caused from a release of radiation from fukushima equal zero.
    In the UK around 3000 people die a year on the roads. 3000 a year. Just in the UK. Across the world, 100 000+ annually.

    The publics perception of risk is fatally flawed, and could doom us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Perpetual Sigh Nuclear does not take more energy than it creates. I hope you are being misled and not deliberately misleading others. Open your ears and hear the wails of protest about wind power. You'll soon give up your sandals and tree hugging. We need a sensible blend of all energy provision or a determination to use less. Its time protest groups stopped being obstructive and contributed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Fabulous news from both Japan and Germany. If a wind farm is a problem it can be taken down. If a nuclear power station is a problem, the toxic waste exists for centuries. People that support nuclear power simply don’t understand the dangers. They are prime targets for terrorist attacks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    If it isn't safe, don't use it, not that difficult to work out is it? About time nuclear was discontinued globally. By scaling down the amount of power we need, and locally producing as much as possible (wind turbines and solar on each house, passive heating, intelligent architecture) We will get there eventually. When people finally start thinking a bit long term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    @86 - 'nuclear power uses more energy to create than it produces'.

    No it doesn't. The refining and processing stages are energy intensive, but the energy content of the refined product is way more than the fuel preparation cost. Even when you lump in the cost of development and decommissioning of plant, you're still way in credit in terms of generated energy vs embedded energy.


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