Japan to go non-nuclear for at least half a year

Japan to go non-nuclear for at least half a year
Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (in red helmet) inspecting water tanks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

JAPAN - Japan, the first Asian country to adopt nuclear energy on a large scale, will have to depend entirely on non-nuclear sources of energy once again.

The only two nuclear reactors - at Ohi, Fukui Prefecture in western Japan - that have been running since July last year are being shut down for regular maintenance.

The country's other reactors which closed for maintenance have not been restarted largely as a result of public backlash after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

On Monday, workers at Ohi powered down one reactor. When the second is switched off on Sept 15, all of Japan's 50 reactors will be offline.

It takes at least half a year for nuclear authorities to inspect a reactor before it can be restarted. Which means Japan is likely to be without nuclear power this coming winter.

Besides, the growing troubles at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant 230km north of Tokyo could make it more difficult for utility companies to restart offline reactors in future.

Reports in recent weeks that radioactive water has leaked from storage tanks at Fukushima and has even drained into the ocean are likely to further dampen public enthusiasm for nuclear energy.

On Monday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed that the government would play a more direct role in dealing with the Fukushima mess.

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