Japan’s last working nuclear reactor – Kansai Electric Power Co.’s number 4 reactor at the Oi nuclear facility – was taken offline at 11:00 PM yesterday, leaving the country completely nuclear-free again, as all of its 50 nuclear reactors are now currently suspended. Oi’s number 4 reactor was taken offline for what was announced as maintenance procedures, but there is currently no restart date in sight because of public resistance towards nuclear power. This situation is now raising concerns for power generation in the winter months, with consumers and business leaders fearing there might not be enough energy for the country without nuclear energy.
In July 2012, the Japanese government ordered all nuclear reactors in the country turned off in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, and that point was the first time in 40 years that Japan was without nuclear energy. As the clamor for the reactors to be checked and certified grew, only 2 of the nuclear reactors were started back up to provide thermal energy as the world’s third-largest economy started relying again on fossil fuels. Today, the country is totally free from nuclear power again, although industries and businesses fear this might not be such a good move. Makoto Yagi, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Cos., told reporters in Tokyo on Sept. 13 that there is a possibility that Japan may not have enough capacity in winter without nuclear power. Yagi added that Japan’s 10 regional power companies are currently still assessing winter power demand and supply to see if thermal power generation via fossil fuels will be enough.
As it is, the regional utilities have already raised power fees to cover increased fuel costs for thermal plants while the majority of the reactors remained offline. The fossil fuel supplies will now have to cover for all of the almost 35% percent of power generation that the nuclear reactors used to provide, giving more pressure to the country to find cheap alternative sources of fossil fuels.