For the first time in more than four decades, Japan is now running without any nuclear power generation. Late Friday night, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. shut off the generating equipment at the last operating nuclear power station in Japan as the plant prepares for regularly scheduled maintenance.
The latest shut-down is also part of a nationwide initiative to assess the safety of Japans’ nearly 46,000 MW of nuclear power. As the country considers whether it will abandon nuclear power in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, nuclear plants that have shut down for scheduled maintenance have been held from restarting.
While activists have called for the permanent closure of these plants, utility operators and businesses have called on the government to allow at least a partial restart to help ensure grid stability. Nuclear power had previously accounted for 30 percent of Japan's electricity.
As the country approaches summer, electricity bills are expected to climb as utilities dramatically increase their imports of fuels like coal and natural gas in an effort to meet demand.