No Nuclear Power In Japan By 2012?

Something extraordinary is happening in Japan, one of the world's most pro--nuclear power coutries. Of the nation's 54 reactors, only 19 are currently up and running. The rest are either shut down for maintainence, check-ups or other regularly scheduled repairs. Or wrecked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

NHK notes that during the next few months, 5 more reactors will have to be shut down ahead of regular inspections, and if the utilities decide to keep these 40 reactors offline for the time being, Japan will have about 75 percent of its reactors shutdown this summer.

NHK World: 35 Japanese reactors are soon to be out of line

But that is not all. The Daily Yomiuri has looked at the schedule for the up-and-running reactors around the country, and notes that they also are about to be shut down, one by one, according to the safety rules that require inspections and maintainence. Thus, by next summer, Japan may have gone non-nuclear by default:

Japan has 54 nuclear reactors, of which 35 are currently not operating for one reason or another. Regular checkups will gradually lead to the suspension of the remaining 19 units by next summer. Since March 11, reactors halted for inspection have not been restarted. If this continues, all of the nation's nuclear plants will be off-line in a little more than a year.

Considering the ongoing crisis situation at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, utilities will likely have little chance of restarting suspended reactors without the approval of the surrounding communities. Without electricity from these nuclear plants, how will the nation maintain its power supply? Let us examine the circumstances in the communities that host nuclear plants and the issues that need to be solved if reactors are to begin operating again.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, 11 of the 15 nuclear reactors on the Pacific coast from the Tohoku to the Kanto regions were operating. These were automatically shut down when the strong tremor hit. Shortly after the quake, the Fukushima No. 1 plant was hit by a massive tsunami, which set off a series of serious problems.

Due to this ongoing crisis, there has been no prospect of resuming operations even at plants that suffered little damage in the disaster, such as TEPCO's Fukushima No. 2 plant, the Higashidori and Onagawa plants of Tohoku Electric Power Co., and the Tokai No. 2 plant of Japan Atomic Power Co.

In addition to reactors that were already suspended for regular checkups when the earthquake struck and the 11 reactors that shut down due to the disaster, Chubu Electric Power Co. suspended operations at two reactors at its Hamaoka nuclear plant in response to a request from Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The nation's 54 reactors have a total capacity of about 49,110 megawatts. Currently, 19 are running, with a combined capacity of about 16,550 megawatts, about one-third of maximum capacity.

Since each nuclear reactor must undergo a regular checkup every 13 months, the remaining reactors are scheduled to be suspended one after another over the coming months, with all of them shut down by next summer.

If the reactors that finish their checkups and plants that complete earthquake-resistance measures are not allowed to resume operations, the nation's power supply will be greatly affected.

As in accordance with the Electricity Enterprises Law, regular checkups last a few months and involve inspection of reactors' piping and peripheral equipment, disassembly and examination of emergency power generators, and checks on many other items, including turbines.

Nuclear fuel is also replaced and inspected by the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency during the checkups.
The Daily Yomiuri: Complete nuclear shutdown next summer?


Pandabonium said…
May we not blow it by ramping up fossil fuel plants. We must stick to reductions in CO2 emissions as well.

Power down. Use less energy, buy less "stuff". Do we really need more cars and flat screen TVs? Of course not.

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