The world has not seen nuclear energy quite the same ever since the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck Japan in March 2011. Since then the countries of Germany and Switzerland have declared end dates for their nuclear programs, with many other countries considering similar measures. However, there are also nations which are increasing their nuclear programs, such as the United States. But, Japan may be headed towards joining the side with no nuclear energy.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan decimated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The six reactors were subsequently put out of commission and the entire area, extending some twelve miles from the plant, is devoid of life due to measures to protect from radiation. Japan has 54 nuclear reactors and 53 were gradually shut down for maintenance, the 54th has recently been shut down leaving Japan with no nuclear energy.
Prior to the March 2011 disaster, thirty percent of Japan’s energy needs were met through nuclear energy. Now the last nuclear reactor being shut down ushers in a time of no nuclear energy, the first time Japan has been without such energy since 1970. Concerns are running high that the lack of nuclear energy will subsequently cause shortages and blackouts. Japan has increased their fossil fuel imports to counteract the lack of nuclear power.
All of the plants have been shut down in order to perform maintenance and ensure that they are able to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. In addition, authorities in the region of each nuclear reactor are required to sign off on whether the plants can come back on line. Thus far, two reactors in the country have been determined to meet the safety requirements but the local government has not approved their use. The government is hoping the two reactors can be used to reduce shortage issues come summer.
Numerous protests have been held by citizens of Japan in order to push for ending the nuclear program altogether. It is thought that the government is considering ending the nuclear program but it is not yet known. The main hurdle at the moment is for the country to endure the summer months without major shortages and blackouts. It is thought that without major inconveniences such as these the country may in fact look towards ending their nuclear program.
As of mid-May none of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been brought back on line, with the pressure of citizen protests player a major role in the situation. However, the Prime Minister of Japan recently announced that the government is considering starting operations once more at Kansai Electric’s Ohi nuclear plant with two reactors. However, it is not yet a certainty.
In the meantime the Japanese government is requesting citizens to reduce their electricity use this summer in order to decrease the possibility of blackouts. In a request for the months July, August and September, citizens are asked to reduce usage by 15 percent or more. The reductions are not mandatory at this time, although the request is greatest in the larger industrialized and populated areas.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura stated: “The government will try hard to figure out how to implement the measures decided today so that the power savings will affect the economy and people’s livelihood as little as possible. But I would like to repeat here our appeal to the nation to save power this summer.”