On Monday, March 25, 2012, the No. 6 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex in Niigata-ken was taken off-line early Monday by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).
This leaves Japan only one of its 54 reactors operational following last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
The last reactor is expected to be shut down by early May, raising the possibility of power shortages across the nation as demand increases in the hot summer months.
TEPCO also owns and runs the plant in Fukushima-ken (Dai-ichi) that suffered three meltdowns, explosions and radiation leaks after the March 11, 2011 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.
Now... Japanese reactors are taken off-line every 13 months for regular checks – but with big-time concerns over nuclear safety following the Fukushima crisis, none of the reactors that have been shut down for checks, and none that were already off line at the time of the disaster, have been allowed to restart.
The last reactor, on the northern island of Hokkaido, will be shut down in May 2012. The timing for when any reactors will be restarted, if ever, is not known.
Prior to March 11, 2011, about one-third of all of Japan’s electrical power was derived from nuclear power. But... none of these reactors will start again until stress tests can prove they are safe.
But, with public opinion against the turning on of the reactors, local leaders, fearing a political backlash, are reluctant to give their approval.
The stress tests, similar to those used in France and elsewhere in Europe, are designed to assess how well the plants can withstand earthquakes, tsunami, storms, loss of power and other crises.
Japan Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko (surname first) has promised to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear power over time and plans to lay out a new energy policy by the summer.
In the meantime, Japan has temporarily turned to oil and coal generation plants to make up for the shortfall, and businesses have been required to reduce electricity use to help with conservation efforts.
I have no idea what Japan is thinking here. On the one-hand, I applaud them for taking their nuclear plants off line... but why? Is this merely a knee-jerk reaction to a very bad situation in Fukushima-ken, which was a near-perfect storm?
Why shut down? Did Japan suddenly conclude that Hey! Building nuclear reactors on an island that suffers a large number of earthquakes has the potential to be a global disaster? If that is the case... what the hell took so long? What... Japan has been having nuclear reactor concerns after earthquakes for years now!
Is it just because this one hit global proportions, I assume. The Japanese are embarrassed, and they do not do embarrassment well. Traditionally, harakiri or seppuku is observed.
Is this Japan's version of suicide?
Personally... I have no problem with nuclear energy generating electrical power for me. Here in Canada, where we have a lot of hydro-electric options available to us, we also utilize a safer less fissionable form of uranium - uranium 238 (I hope). Basically, it does not create weapons-grade plutonium... which means should we sell our wasted uranium, someone else can still enrich it and use it for nuclear weaponry. We (Canada) don't.
But, yeah... you could still go nuclear with the 'safer' uranium.
So... what the hell is Japan going to be using for energy? No one has a fugging clue. Or, if they do... no one in the government is saying.
I'm unsure if anyone in Japan is actually asking the question, and are instead basking in the dimming glow of a country abandoning its nuclear power plan.
Whatever... it's your country Japan... but really... with only a single nuclear reactor online providing energy for a country that has a lot of electronically-run pachinko parlors - what the heck will you do?
Recently (this past year), Japan's usage of electricity has been stellar. Low, low, low. Is the government hedging its bets that the country will continue to be energy conscious?
For perhaps a half-year... and then it's back to usual, as people want their lives to return to a semblance of normalcy.... People were energy conscious because there simply wasn't enough energy... and the country was devastated by an earthquake, tsunami (plural) and three near-meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
Japan is just like the rest of the world. It is greedy and wants more. Using expensive oil and gas that has to be shipped to Japan is hardly the answer for a country already strapped for cash.
So... go nuclear or go broke.
Still... they better make sure these reactors pass the stress tests with flying colors. Personally... I still don’t see how it can go back to nuclear power.
What’s wrong with geo-thermal? The whole frigging country sits atop the so-called ring of fire! Let’s use the power of the Earth to provide much needed power for Japan. But you better start digging soon!
Japan needs power! Power for the people!
By Andrew Joseph