Prior to the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and the nuclear disasters that resulted from it, Japan generated 30% of its electrical power from nuclear reactors and planned to increase that share to 40%. Nuclear energy was a national strategic priority in Japan in order to reduce Japan’s dependence on fossil fuel and create efficient, diverse and indigenous source of energy.
Immediately following the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster a majority of the Japanese public said they were anti-nuclear and distrusted the government’s information on radiation. In Japan nuclear power plants must shut down every 13 months for maintenance and inspection and require local consent to restart. Because of this new anti-nuclear sentiment almost every plant that has been shut down since the disaster has been unable to gain the necessary consent to restart.
In addition, Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan took an anti-nuclear stance in the months following the Fukushima disaster and in May 2011, he ordered the aging Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant to be closed over earthquake and tsunami fears, and said he would freeze plans to build new reactors. In July 2011, Prime Minister Kan asked power utilities across Japan to conduct stress tests on their reactors, as a step toward resuming operations. In line with these demands, NISA and the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan introduced a new double-screening process. Thus far, 11 power plants have submitted stress-test results for 22 reactors.
As of March 27th, 2012, Japan had only one out of 54 nuclear reactors operating, the Tomari-3, after the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6was shut down. The Tomari-3 was shut down for maintenance on May 5th, leaving Japan with no nuclear-derived electricity for the first time since 1970.
On June 15th, 2012, approval was given to restart units 3 and 4 at Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture. It was announced on July 1st, 2012, that Kansai Electric Power Co. will reactive unit 3 and move to restart unit 4 to be fully on-line by the end of July.
It is still uncertain how many nuclear power plants will gain approval to restart their reactors but if the efforts to restart are unsuccessful the costs of increasing the use of fossil fuels will be high, causing a further drag on the economy.