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Japan Shuts Down Last Nuclear Reactor On Children’s Day

Japan Shuts Down Last Nuclear Reactor On Children’s Day

Hundreds of people today marched through Tokyo waving fish-shaped banners, a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement, to celebrate what they hope will be the end of nuclear power in Japan, as the country powers down the last of its 50 nuclear reactors.

By a nice coincidence, May 5 is also Children’s Day in Japan, a festival that has been celebrated since ancient times.

Until last year’s earthquake and tsunami triggered radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan was the world’s third-biggest user of atomic energy.

All 50 Nuclear Reactors Shut Off

No plant shut off for maintenance since the earthquake and tsunami in March of last year has been turned back on. But many in the government are enthusiastic about restarting them, worried about the countryís increased reliance on oil and gas. Before the crisis last year and new restrictions passed to prevent against future disasters, more than 30 percent of Japanís electricity was provided by nuclear plants.

Japan will be without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades when the reactor at Tomari nuclear plant on the northern island of Hokkaido goes offline for routine maintenance..

The Associated Press reports:

“Today is a historical day,” Masashi Ishikawa shouted to a crowd gathered at a Tokyo park, some holding traditional “koinobori” carp-shaped banners for Children’s Day that have become a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement.

“There are so many nuclear plants, but not a single one will be up and running today, and that’s because of our efforts,” Ishikawa said.

The activists said it is fitting that the day Japan is stopping nuclear power coincides with Children’s Day because of their concerns about protecting children from radiation, which Fukushima Dai-ichi is still spewing into the air and water.

“Japan Doesn’t Really Need Nuclear Power

The response from people living near nuclear plants has been mixed, with some wanting them back in operation because of jobs, subsidies and other benefits to the local economy.

However, the crowd at the anti-nuclear rally, estimated at 5,500 by organizers, shrugged off government warnings about a power shortage. If anything, they said, with the reactors going offline one by one, it was clear the nation didn’t really need nuclear power.

Whether Japan will suffer a sharp power crunch is still unclear. Electricity shortages are expected only at peak periods, such as the middle of the day in hot weather, and critics of nuclear power say proponents are exaggerating the consequences to win public approval to restart reactors.

Nuclear Isn’t Safe

This is a good day for Japan. Many of us have known for a long time that nuclear isn’t safe. After last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the ensuing nuclear meltdown, the world began worrying if such a catastrophe could happen elsewhere.† Germany, for instance, shut down eight nuclear plants in the wake of Fukushima and revamped its energy policy. Switzerland and Spain have banned any new plant construction.

Let’s celebrate with the Japanese on Children’s Day, and hope that vigilance around nuclear power plants will continue.

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79 comments

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6:31AM PDT on Jul 2, 2012

Being able to live safely is the alternative to nuclear power. The world should embrace a band on all nuclear power .

4:57AM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

Maybe Japan should focus on alternative energy sources, such as the sun or the wind?

2:16AM PDT on May 12, 2012

That is nice. What about returning the money to the tsumi fund they used for killing whales or dolfins

2:12PM PDT on May 9, 2012

... And with that reaction, Japan relinquishes its claim to be one of the most technologically forward-looking countries on the planet, and surrenders to the willfully ignorant and the scaremongers.

As anyone who cares to look beyond the propaganda can tell you, the Fukushima disaster was due to a failing of an outdated reactor design being hit by the combination of the earthquake and tsunami, and is expected to lead to no loss of life whatsoever*.

Fukushima used an actively-cooled design from the 1960s, in which input power was needed to keep coolant circulating. Modern designs use passive cooling, in which coolant continues to circulate through convection as long as the reactor core is hot. Even then, had it been hit by only one half of the natural disaster, it would have survived: the earthquake took out the grid lines that allowed power to be drawn in from elsewhere, and then the tsunami swamped the backup diesel engines which had been providing power on-site. Had either of these systems remained operational, the eventual incident would not have occurred.

Although exclusion zones were set up in which radiation levels were above stated limits, no attention is paid to what these limits entail. In fact, they are essentially set at normal operating levels in ideal conditions: any release, regardless of how minor and ineffectual, is enough to overtop the limits. The biological effects of radiation at this level are generally so low as to be negligible: even exaggerati

11:37AM PDT on May 8, 2012

We need to replace both coal and nuclear power with Enhanced Geothermal Systems. It will be horribly expensive but the alternatives of rampant unmitigated climate change and any further accumulation of nuclear waste to be stored safely out of harm's way for the 3,000 years it will take for it to cool down to the same level as the uranium ore from which the fuel rods were made will be even more horribly expensive. Global Thermostat makes a stand-alone except for needing a source of heat (preferably otherwise wasted heat) to dry its wet filters and create a draft through its dry filters, CO2 extractor. Enhanced Geothermal Systems can make even better use of CO2 as their hydraulic fluid than of water. It will take time to collect all the CO2 that needs to be collected. We are emitting 35 billion tons of CO2 a year now.

6:30AM PDT on May 8, 2012

Jon Mitchel, a writer for the Japan times has published a book of poetry dealing with the reactions of the Japanese to the horrors of the double whammy of a tsunami/earthquake and nuclear plant explosion. Heart wrenching ! The Japanese people are to be commended for making the tough decision to abandon Nuclear power. They deserve our, and the world's support in difficult times. I just wish other societies and societal leaders would have the courage to make those same tough decisions about our energy future. Thank you Ms Molland for a timely article.

10:08AM PDT on May 7, 2012

that's great..but we need an alternative, a good alternative to Nuclear power since we don't have one atm.

7:44AM PDT on May 7, 2012

A good step forward for all living beings. Thank you. Rosi Caswell Animal/Human Therapist

3:21AM PDT on May 7, 2012

Thanks

1:43AM PDT on May 7, 2012

If we needed proof that a country like Japan which is subject to earthquakes shouldn't have Nuclear-powered energy providers, the story of what happened there recently does the trick.

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