52 of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are currently offline for a variety of reasons. Mainly the disaster at Fukushima, which occurred March of last year, is driving an anti-nuclear sentiment and an interest in other energy sources, including natural gas.
Until recently, Japan was one of the world leaders in nuclear power, so such a shift is very significant, both culturally and economically. It has been revealed the central government did not let on to the public how damaging some of the possible scenarios may have been. About 10,000 spent fuel rods were being stored in pools of water near the damaged Fukushima reactor, and the government officials didn’t know if those fuel rods were in danger of releasing additional large amounts of radiation. It took them a long time to check to see if the water levels in the pools were safe or unsafe, “We barely avoided the worst case scenario, though the public didn’t know it at the time,” Mr. Funabashi. (Source: ETF Daily)
According to the Washington Post, there was talk amongst some officials of even evacuating Tokyo, which is an enormous city with nearly 13 million people. It also was not revealed at the time that contaminated areas might be not safe for decades.
The prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, is for a gradual phase-out of nuclear power over the coming decades, but wants some of the nuclear power plants to come back online soon, because about one third of country’s electricity has been supplied by nuclear. Without nuclear, they are even more dependent on imports of oil and natural gas. The Prime Minister said he won’t have the plants switched on, unless local community leaders agree, and they haven’t so far.
Germany reacted to the radiation leaks in Japan by moving to phase out their nuclear plants quickly. The fact nuclear power in Japan is currently offline mostly, and is being shuttered in Germany means pro-nuclear advocates are on less steady ground for continuing to promote that form of power.