Japan faces nuclear-free summer

Japan has admitted that it might have no nuclear reactors operational when the country’s power demand peaks this summer.

Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry, Yukio Edano, revealed: “We're pushing for measures to cope with a possibility of no nuclear plant restarting by the summer.”

Japan’s nuclear industry has been in a state of flux since last year’s catastrophe at Fukushima. All plants were shutdown for safety checks following the disaster and the government has since decided to move towards an energy mix less reliant on atomic power.

But nuclear accounts for around 30 per cent of the country’s electricity supply and the pro-nuclear lobby fears that pulling the plug will stunt Japan’s economic growth and plunge the country into an energy supply crisis.

Shutdowns for scheduled maintenance have left all but five of Japan's 54 reactors idle, with post-Fukushima stress tests for restarting them dragging on. Before Fukushima, 36 reactors were operating.

And the remaining five reactors are also due to close for maintenance by May – two months before Japan hits its traditional energy peak in July.

Japan’s nuclear industry is awaiting the outcome of the latest probe into Fukushima, which will examine how the plant withstood first the earthquake of March 11 and then the resulting tsunami. If it is found that the plant’s critical functions were damaged first by the earthquake, then all of the country’s reactors will be subjected to further reviews and tests.

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