Japan reboots nuclear power despite protests and no waste plan

Powering up (Image: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

JAPAN is returning to nuclear power. All of the country’s 48 reactors were shut down following the catastrophic Tohoku earthquake on 11 March 2011. The tsunami it triggered caused a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.

In the south of the country, workers at the Sendai nuclear complex in Kagoshima prefecture, Kyushu island, pulled out control rods to begin booting up the plant’s Number 1 reactor on Monday. Households are expected to begin receiving nuclear-sourced electricity by Friday, after the reactor has booted up.

It is the first move in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s quest to restart nuclear power stations and redress a chronic shortage of power that has led to hikes in electricity prices. He wants nuclear to provide 20 to 22 per cent of the country’s electricity by 2030, compared with 30 per cent before the Fukushima disaster.

But distrust of nuclear power in Japan is unabated. Around 100 anti-nuclear protesters gathered outside the plant as it was being restarted. A poll of 1000 Kagoshima residents earlier this month for the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed that 57 per cent were opposed to the restart, with 30 per cent in favour.

Another problem is where to put highly reactive nuclear waste. According to The Japan Times, about 17,000 tonnes is languishing in temporary storage pools around the country, with some tipped to reach capacity within three years.

Magazine issue 3034 published 15 August 2015

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