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 448.

    Well, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water. The anti nukes will celebrate the fruits of their religious naivety. But we've seen this before in the wake of 3 mile island and Chernobyl. Bluster and faith in a new dawn back tracked on when the impracticality of the decision and the prospect of high electricity prices becomes evident. Japan will switch reactors on before the summer is out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    436 Comfortably Numb

    It's a nice thought, but like most green dreams, it's not living in the real world. We're already invading countries for their oil, do you propose we invade them for their sunlight next? I certainly wouldn't want to rely on the Russians, Chinese or Americans for direct power generation, and I imagine the feeling is mutual. It would be too easy to switch the lights out...

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    442.Comfortably Numb

    Comparatively speaking... we're a pretty sophisticated and intelligent society. We can discriminate and imagine. We occasionally invoke a collective determination that makes the unimagineable happen.

    I dont know where you're living, but its surely not the present UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    The thing is nuclear power is relatively safe. The only problem is, if something goes wrong it usually goes wrong in a spectacular way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    All those who have solarpanels are content and happy!
    I never heard one complain.
    The only one's who complain about solar are those who do not have them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    @440 youd lose most of it as it gets earthed anyway. small scale transmission for recharging your phone would work. large scale transmit of energy wouldnt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    430. Bill Walker

    Comparatively speaking... we're a pretty sophisticated and intelligent society. We can discriminate and imagine. We occasionally invoke a collective determination that makes the unimagineable happen.

    If we want solar power - and freedom from a fossil-based energy policy - all we need do is decide that is the way forward.

    It really isn't difficult.. once you make that decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    Japan is to be commended as it was stupid to build nuclear power stations in an earthquake zone. Nuclear is not 'cleaner' and we have been looking to resolve the problem of waste containment for decades and not yet succeeded.It is not cheaper because it is heavily subsidised. Germany has seen sense to and I understand that plans are afoot to wind down in France too.Stable door policy in UK, again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    437 CommanderMethos
    '436 and you lose most of the power you gain via transfer on a global scale. despite what the ecos tell you super conducters dont exsist."


    I think Mr Tesla had different ideas about that and he really did have an awesome track record.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Didn't Lovelock get a load of Nuclear waste buried under his house and then used it to power everything in his house? Not sure if this is true or not, just something I heard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    To get the equivalent in usefull work of coal, oil, or nuclear, from wind and solar sources for the industrialized world would mean covering virtually the entire surface of the planet with windmills and solar panels. It works on small scales but can not drive current world industry and big cities with so called free energy. It's an additional source but can not be made the prime resource.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    '436 and you lose most of the power you gain via transfer on a global scale. despite what the ecos tell you super conducters dont exsist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    426. Drunken Hobo

    It's always sunny somewhere.

    Think global.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Fossil fuels will last only 100 years as a global power source. Fusion power is still distant. World population and economic growth can only be maintained by increasing energy production. 3 years of power failures and loss of industrial output will have the Japanese people demanding power regardless of source. Unless fusion power comes of age, fission will be the major source of energy by 2100

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    We need nuclear power as an on demand low carbon power source. It is less risky than coal in terms of lives lost mining and trucking and avoids the carbon problems of coal and oil. We are going to need 40% of our power from on demand sources to supplement the wind and solar. We just need to make sure we are doing it openly and well. We can't let fear and ignorance drive the decisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Wonderful move, I certainly would move home if any of these stations were built close to where I live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Some people have accu's/batteries in which they store solar energy.
    So they can use it whenever they need it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    @424 'ThankyouandGoodbye'
    I would not agree or disagree with anyone on global warming or the effect of Co2 emissions.

    My concerns, on this debate, are based on individual control of the cost of energy and the power of energy companies.

    I want what most people want; to simply be able to light their homes/keep warm via all options I have already posted - so unpopular with energy companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    @409 comfortably numb
    You actually do know something about nuclear energy. That object sitting 93 million miles away is a massive nuclear fusion reactor, converting hydrogen into helium, with huge amounts of energy left over, which radiates to Earth. Hopefully we can make a tiny equivalent sometime soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    japan are not getting rid of their nuclear power plants. they are still open to be re activated upon completion of maintainence checks and i fully expect them to be re activated in a few months time when japan cant meet its own power needs.


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