Japan Shuts Last of Nuclear Reactors

B. McPherson
In spite of assurances of safety, nuclear power stations in Japan remain vulnerable to damage from earthquakes and tsunamis.

The Tomari Nuclear Power Station shut down their reactors for routine maintenance. There is speculation that all the nuclear power stations may remain shut down. Japan is moving into the summer months when demand for electricity for air conditioning soars. Nuclear power provided about 30% of that nation’s power supply before the Fukushima Daiichi disaster last year.

Before the Fukushima disaster, the nuclear power industry was expected to expand its production to provide 50% of the power needs over the next 20 years. Imports of liquefied natural gas(LNG), coal and oil have been ramped up to feed the thermal plants. Even so, there are  predictions of electrical shortages throughout the country.

"I have to say we are facing the risk of a very severe electricity shortage," said the economy, trade and industry minister, Yukio Edano, adding that the extra cost of importing fuel for use in thermal power stations could be passed on to individual consumers though higher electricity bills. Christian Science Monitor

The end of nuclear power electrical production in Japan will solve some issues – like what to do with the spent fuel, what happens in a natural disaster – but it will create other problems. Japan was signatory to the Copenhagen Agreement in 2009. The renewed reliance on burning fossil fuels will increase Japan’s output of greenhouse gases, probably wrecking their agreement with the accord. Power brownouts and blackouts may well result in the deaths of people in their large cities due to the build up of heat in the summer months.
Japan’s manufacturing plants may be starved of the power needed to turn out their wide ranging goods.

As far as Japan’s dependence on “the friendly atom” for its electrical supply, they are not in the top ten of countries relying on the controversial generation. France leads the world with about 78% of its electricity generated by nuclear power, nuclear waste is shipped to Russia. It is followed by Belgium and Slovakia which get more than half their power from nuclear and then by the Ukraine and Hungary.

The situation with the Fukushima Daiichi power station remains precarious. Spent fuel rods have been stored in tanks 30 metres above ground. Number four reactor contains nuclear fuel stored while that reactor was shut down. If another earthquake hits the area, the elevated tanks may crash or spring a leak releasing more radiation to the world than the initial discharge.


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