Japan will shut down its last operating nuclear power reactor on Saturday, worsening a squeeze on electricity and adding urgency to calls for a green energy revolution.
On Saturday, the last of the country’s 50 usable nuclear reactors will be switched off, completely idling a power source that once supplied a third of Japan’s electricity.
Nuclear energy seemed a steady mainstay of Japan’s power supply until the March 11, 2011, tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Authorities have since tightened safety standards and refrained from restarting reactors that were shut down, mostly for routine checks.
To offset the shortfall, utilities have ramped up oil- and gas-based generation, giving resource-poor Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, its biggest annual trade deficit ever last fiscal year. That $100 million-plus a day extra cost, worries over the risks of nuclear power and concern over carbon emissions are leading many decisionmakers to view renewable energy such as solar, hydro and wind more positively.
PM Yoshihiko Noda has pledged to reduce reliance on nuclear power. And Japan is debating renewable energy targets of between 25-35% of total power generation by 2030.
“If Japan has the motivation, it can do this, too,” said Sei Kato, deputy director of the environment ministry’s Low Carbon Society Promotion Office.