Japan has shut down its last working nuclear power reactor for maintenance after the tsunami last year.
As part of a safety drive, Japan has now shut down all of its 50 nuclear reactors for maintenance. It’s the first time the country has been without nuclear generated electricity since 1970.
The news has been warmly welcomed by many Japanese people as they hope that the nuclear shut down will become permanent.
The news means that Japan will become even more reliant on imported gas and as a result wholesale gas prices could increase. If they do it could mean further increases in business gas prices as demand exceeds supply.
The reactors will undergo routine maintenance and before they can go back online they will have to withstand tests against earthquakes and tsunamis. Furthermore, local authorities will have to consent to the reactors being restarted.
Utility Exchange reported last year that the authorities were concerned that with the approaching summer there may be electricity shortages. There are similar concerns this year and several ministers are trying to win public support to get two reactors, taken offline earlier, restarted. However, the government may find it difficult to win support for restarting reactors.
The Japanese government’s national policy unit has forecast a 5% power shortage for Tokyo. At the same time energy suppliers are predicting a 16% shortage in the west of the country which includes the industrial city of Osaka.
The economy, trade and industry minister, Yukio Edano, said “I have to say we are facing the risk of a very severe electricity shortage”.
Electricity shortages could mean manufacturers in Japan have to cut production as higher business electricity prices force up energy bills. Japan’s move away from nuclear power may have an impact on not just its own energy prices but energy prices in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.