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 308.

    I honestly think that Japan is generally quite confident with developing renewable energy technology next few decades, although you think it's impossible. Japan fundamentally knows the real horror of nuclear power due to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it miraculously recovered from them. When the country faces emergency, people usually gain great concentration and design effective strategy. Will see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    296.Drunken Hobo

    296.Drunken Hobo
    I'm sorry but you are missing something here, and i can't stress this strongly enough, man made nuclear power is nothing, zip, nadda, compared to the power of the sun. It is a matter of harnessing it better end of, best of all there is no chance of harming humanity whilst doing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    One in 100.000 they used to say.

    We have had 3 meltdowns in the last 30 years!

    The math is flaud and so is the technology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    The only reason for an island to roll out a nuclear program is cost. A bit of honesty would go a long way. It is not renewable and has inherent risks. We are on the cusp of massive energy decisions in this country and we should be planning for longer term change with smart grids, low energy buildings and renewable energy, something the current gov seem to be overlooking, behind carbon targets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Having read the 300 or so comments here, I find it really sad that being pro-nuclear should be seen as being evil or a government/industry stooge. CO2 emissions are causing sea-levels to rise and that worries me. Modern energy-based lifestyles let us live longer. Surely a true, green, humane person can be pro-nuclear power, pro-safety and pro-continual research? It has integrity and adds up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    302. Or an Iranian-Islamist attack on Israel's nuclear reactor. Works both ways my friend. Attacks or threats on another nation or race or people is unnacceptable no matter who it comes from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    NO CONCERN has been expressed re a US-NATO-Israel attack on Iran, using tactical nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state. This action would result in nuclear holocaust over ME & Central Asia. Even if nuclear weapons were NOT USED, the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities would contribute to unleashing another Fukushima disaster - extensive radioactive fallout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    Japan just turned off its last working reactor “talk about shutting the gate after the horse has bolted!” but it is a big step in the right direction and the rest of the world will follow Japans push for an end to Shelved Patents, and research into Geo Thermal and Carbon based Nanotechnology which both show promise of clean inexpensive energy sources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.


    p.s nuclear stinks

    This is not true nuclear energy has no odour whatsoever

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    The ignorance of many to this immoral energy source is breathtaking.
    So many say, we will not have a tsunami here in the UK, maybe not.
    You don't really need such a disaster all you need is a BIG Plane into one of our Nuclear Plants or major power failure for such a disaster to unfold here!
    Those who speak about no deaths from this disaster are completely blind. Take a look at

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    I used to think nuclear was a good alternative... then I watched the most chilling documentary I've ever seen 'Into Eternity'.

    I strongly recommend it, no 'write-up' description does it justice, I guarantee watching it will give you chills.

    Geothermal provides a great alternative to nuclear, fossil and futile green technology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    One more cmment as i should do some work :) 100% clean energy could potentially mean an end to utilities bills! .. i rest my case. p.s nuclear stinks

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    275 Attila the Hungry - And so we see the true face of the green movement. Much like the anti-GM, pro-organic types, you are not so much against the thing you claim to oppose, but rather against large corporations, capitalism and government.

    All those things are valid points of view of course, but don't try and hide them behind a veil of "green energy" - be honest about your intentions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    So much for reduction of carbon emission and Kyoto protocol. Nuclear energy is efficient, effective, clean and fast alternative solution to fossil fuels. If they want to see solar energy to replace nuclear energy, then they need to make it cheap and more advance than it is now. In the meantime all other alternative energies are dependent on demographic regions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    People who don't even understand the difference between nuclear fission (as used in power stations) and nuclear fusion (as used in some types of bomb) don't have a right to comment. Without nuclear power, we as an advanced civilisation are stuffed. It's that simple.

  • Comment number 293.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Has somebody bothered to ask the French what they intend to do with our (the UK) nuclear power stations?
    Would we have to go “cap in hand” to the Russians?

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Nuclear energy recieves an unjustified bad rep. Our future energy needs holds very little other than nuclear energy. Stop whining and stop blindly jumping on the bad rep band wagon and help design better safety features for nuclear power stations because they WILL be build whether you want them or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    The engineers who designed the Fukushima plants resigned before the plants were built, they said "the C1 was not a safe design and should never be built", they added "the design shows what can and will go wrong with nuclear plants if the problems highlighted by the designs faults were not addressed"!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    @KTrout, It's too early to know about delayed deaths. Children from the evacuation zone have been found to have traces of internal radiation.The radiation is much more widespread than just around the plant in Fukushima. Food has been contaminated. Near Tokyo soil with 14,210 Bq/kg of Caesium-137 was found next to a school. That's why people are cautious.


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