With only a year having passed since the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that devastated the western shores of Japan on 11 March 2011 knocking out four of the six reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the incident seems to be a far memory already. However, its aftermath is still playing its course with the nuclear industry on the backfoot amid rising security concerns across the globe.
Following the disaster, Japan decided to shut down the remainder of its 54 reactors for stress tests to see if they could withstand a Fukushima like incident. With Japan shutting down its last reactor only a few days back, its grid is now nuclear energy free. The government has been unable to start two reactors after finishing the tests in the teeth of public opposition.
A failure to approve the restart of two reactors may trigger severe power shortages during the long humid summer with shortages forcing industry to cut production.
To make up the shortfall, Japan increased imports of oil and natural gas. Nuclear energy proponents fear that if the summer passes without major shortages, it would add to opposition to the restarting of nuclear reactors.
Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan was mostly reliant on nuclear power, which supplied 30 per cent of its electricity needs, with plans to hike its share to over 50 per cent by 2030 with the construction of new reactors.
Fukushima seems to have finally put paid to the plans and people seem to be in no mood to buy the rising carbon emissions and global warming argument, with even a recent environment ministry report saying that Japan could still cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels without nuclear energy.