Nuclear Power In Japan
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, but there had been concern about the ability of Japan's nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant was completely shut down for 21 months following an earthquake in 2007.
The 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused the failure of cooling systems at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 11 and a nuclear emergency was declared. This was the first time a nuclear emergency had been declared in Japan, and 140,000 residents within 20 km of the plant were evacuated. The total amount of radioactive material released is unclear, as the crisis is ongoing. On 6 May 2011, Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant be shut down as an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher is likely to hit the area within the next 30 years.
Problems in stabilizing the Fukushima I nuclear plant had hardened attitudes to nuclear power. As of June 2011, "more than 80 percent of Japanese now say they are anti-nuclear and distrust government information on radiation". As of October 2011, there have been electricity shortages, but Japan survived the summer without the extensive blackouts that had been predicted. An energy white paper, approved by the Japanese Cabinet in October 2011, says "public confidence in safety of nuclear power was greatly damaged" by the Fukushima disaster, and calls for a reduction in the nation’s reliance on nuclear power.
Many of Japan's nuclear plants have been closed, or their operation has been suspended for safety inspections. The last of Japan's 50 reactors (Tomari-3) went offline for maintenance on May 5, 2012., leaving Japan completely without nuclear-produced electrical power for the first time since 1970. Despite protests, on 1 July 2012 unit 3 of the Ōi Nuclear Power Plant was restarted. As of September 2012, Ōi units 3 and 4 are Japan's only operating nuclear power plants, although the city and prefecture of Osaka have requested they be shut down.
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