Energy

Japan To Shut Down Another Nuclear Reactor, Only Has One More

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

A Japanese court ordered that one of the country’s two remaining nuclear power plants be shut down, citing safety concerns.

Government safety regulators said the plant meets the country’s new safety guidelines, but called for the shut down Wednesday based on residents’ concerns over safety in the event of disaster. The reactor has only been back online for two months after Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Residents who live near the nuclear reactor claim the government and the plant’s owners have underestimated the damage potential earthquakes could do and say adequately detailed plans to evacuate them if an accident occurs have not been made. The company that owns the reactor says it will appeal the court’s decision.

Japan’s current government sees a revival of nuclear power as critical to supporting economic growth and slowing an exodus of Japanese manufacturing to lower-cost countries.

The price of electricity in Japan has risen by 20 percent since the Fukushima disaster, creating serious financial hardship for the country’s economy.

Prior to the disaster, Japan operated 54 nuclear power plants, which provided a third of the country’s electricity. The government even planned to build enough reactors to power half of its power. After the disaster, Japan pledged to abandon nuclear power by the 2030s, replacing it mostly with green energy sources.

The transition to green energy hasn’t gone well. Japan remains a top importer of oil, coal and natural gas and the government estimated that importing fuel costs the country more than $40 billion annually.

Electricity from new wind power is nearly four times as expensive as electricity from existing nuclear power plants, according to analysis from the Institute for Energy Research. The rising cost of the subsidies needed to make green energy work have been passed onto ordinary Japanese rate-payers, triggering complaints that poor households are subsidizing the affluent.

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