16 September 2013
Japan is shutting down its last functioning nuclear reactor, with no timetable for a restart.
The closure highlights the changing fortunes of nuclear power in a nation that was once one of its biggest users - until the accident at Fukushima.
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The reactor in Ohi is one of only two in Japan that's been operational since July 2012. Reactor No 3 at the site was taken offline nearly a fortnight ago, and now the operators of Reactor No 4 have begun shutting it down too.
The plant's owners are amongst four companies who want to restart their reactors in the future, observing new safety guidelines. But the memories of the accidents at Fukushima in 2011 have left most Japanese people opposed to nuclear power.
The country's Prime Minister, though, wants to bring nuclear energy in from the cold. Shinzo Abe says that Japan can't carry on paying the high costs of importing gas and oil, in order to keep the country's lights on.
Some household electricity bills are now 30% higher than before the Fukushima accident, and analysts think the rises are set to continue. And the price of importing more energy from abroad has helped to inflate Japan's trade deficit.
Yet even if every nuclear reactor was brought back online many of them are reaching the end of their 40-year lives, which means a decision will have to be made about whether to replace them.
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energy-producing machine in which atoms are divided or joined
- taken offline
disconnected from the main system (usually applied to computers but in this case used about a nuclear power station)
building in which machines operate
- safety guidelines
rules that should be followed to prevent accidents
- bring (nuclear energy) in from the cold
make (nuclear energy) acceptable again
- to inflate
- trade deficit
a situation when the value of goods a country imports is greater than what it exports
- to replace
here: to use something new after something old has become broken or damaged