Japan Goes Nuclear-Free For the First Time in Four Decades

Japan will shut down its last working nuclear power station this weekend, culminating — at least for now — a national shift away from nuclear energy in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster. The shutdown of the No. 3 Tomari reactor in Hokkaido will leave the country without nuclear power for the first time since 1970. Given public concerns about nuclear safety, it may become difficult to switch the plants back on if the country makes it through the summer months without power shortages or blackouts. “Can it be the end of nuclear power [in Japan]? It could be,” Andrew DeWitt, a professor of energy and policy at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, told Reuters. Before the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity. While Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has suggested the country cannot afford to go without nuclear power for the long term, the government has no timetable to switch the plants back on and the country has yet to develop a long-term, nuclear-free energy policy.