Japan Closes Last Nuclear Plant, Fears Of Summer Energy Crisis
By Srinivas Laxman | Top News
May 7, 2012
The 70-day closure of the Tomari nuclear plant marks the first time in four decades that Japan will go without nuclear power for supplying electricity.
AsianScientist (May 7, 2012) – At 8:00 AM (GMT) on Saturday (May 5), workers at the Tomari nuclear plant in Japan moved a control rod into reactor number three.
For a layperson their action would appear a routine activity at a nuclear power plant. But this time it was different, because the shifting of the control rod at once initiated the process of lowering the power generation to zero and decommissioning the plant for 70 days for maintenance.
The 70-day closure of Tomari has been described as historical because since then Japan for the first time in four decades will go without nuclear power for supplying electricity.
The occasion was marked with celebrations in various Japanese cities as thousands of anti-nuclear activists marched through the streets, raising slogans in support of the move. They were happy that it coincided with Children’s Day.
There are three reactors at Tomari and are pressurized water reactors. Reactors one and two are of 579 MW, while the third one is of 912 MW.
Of the nearly 50 nuclear plants in Japan, the Tomari unit, operated by the Hokkaido Electric Power Company located in northernmost Hokkaido, was the only one operating until Saturday after the Fukushima mishap on March 11, 2011. The remaining 49 had since suspended operations post Fukushima to carry out maintenance checks.
With Japan depending upon nuclear energy for about one-third of its electricity supply, the country is now set to face a severe power crisis. The situation is likely to worsen in the days ahead because it is unclear whether the local authorities will clear Tomari for operations after 70 days keeping in view the strong anti-nuclear sentiment among the Japanese public.
Considering the looming threat of a serious power crisis, the government of Prime Minister Yashihiko Noda has stated that two of the offline units at Oi nuclear plant are safe enough to be restarted. But, the hitch is that the government’s decision has to be approved by local authorities.
Even if Oi gets the green light, its operator, Kansai Electric Company, warned that if the summer temperatures shoot up there could be an energy shortage by as much as 20 percent due to the increased use of air conditioners. Kansai mainly caters to Midwestern Japan.
Kyushi Electric Power has said that its supplies have to be matched by nuclear power failing which there will be a crisis.
Saturday’s development in Japan has also focused on the increasing public apprehensions about the safety of atomic power in the wake of the Fukushima mishap.
To cite examples, Germany announced that it will be phasing out nuclear power, while China declared that it will carry out thorough and stringent checks of its nuclear power plants. Elsewhere many nations are slowing down their nuclear power expansion programs.
In India, the Fukushima accident triggered strong protests against the Russian-aided Kudankulam atomic power plant in Tamil Nadu by the local residents who were mainly fishermen. The protests, which incidentally began nearly five months after the Fukushima disaster, delayed the commissioning of the plant by several months.
Although the protests initially had the support of the Tamil Nadu government, recently however, based on a committee report, the government declared that the Kudankulam plant was absolutely safe and began to take tough action against the demonstrators. Indications are that the first unit will go critical in about 40 days.
But, the protestors have warned that they will be undeterred and spread their anti-nuclear movement all over India.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine. Photo: Wikipedia.
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