Japan shuts down another nuclear plant

May 10, 2011 at 5:19 PM
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TOKYO, May 10 (UPI) -- Japan's Chubu Electric Power Co. said it would shut down its Hamaoka nuclear power plant.

The move, announced Monday, follows Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's request to stop operations at the facility, citing concerns that the nuclear power plant lacks medium- to long-term measures for protection against disasters.

Kan's request, Xinhua news agency reports, came in tandem with a government report showing an 87 percent likelihood of a magnitude-8 earthquake or greater striking the area within 30 years.

The facility in Omaezaki, about 112 miles southwest of Tokyo, has been referred to as "the world's most dangerous nuclear power plant" because of its location.

Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday warned that the planned suspension would adversely affect employment and the move would affect major companies, Kyodo News reports.

"There is no doubt the shutdown (of Hamaoka) has a negative impact on manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp., which operate factories in the Chubu region," Daiwa Securities Co. analyst Takahiko Makabe told The Japan Times.

The shutdown also makes it difficult for other Japanese utilities to get approval to restart nuclear facilities that have been idled as a result of Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors, 11 were suspended due to the earthquake and another 22 reactors suspended for servicing. That leaves 21 reactors, less than half of the country's total, in operation.

While Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda emphasized on Monday that the Hamaoka shutdown is unique because of the high probability of a major earthquake hitting the region, Japanese living near other nuclear facilities are growing increasingly anxious about the safety of those plants.

Still, Makoto Yagi, head of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, is urging the government to garner support for resuming reactor operations.

"Restarting nuclear reactors that have been suspended is necessary for stable power supply," Yagi told Kaieda Monday, Kyodo reports.

The shutdowns could also disrupt Japan's policy goal -- set long before the earthquake -- of building at least 14 new reactors by 2030. That would increase the country's share of nuclear power electricity generation to about 50 percent from almost 30 percent now.

"In the midterm, up to 2030, we cannot see the technological breakthrough that will allow us to get rid of nuclear power," The New York Times quoted Masakazu Toyoda, chief executive of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, as saying.

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