Photo: (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
Japan will shut down the last of its 54 nuclear power reactors this weekend, a little over a year after the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima that left 16,000 dead and 3,000 missing, Reuters reports.But the move, which leaves Japan without nuclear power for the first time since 1970, could signal economic, energy, and environmental problems for the country.
It could increase public spending on oil and gas and cause electricity shortages over the summer
Nuclear power used to provide for about 30 per cent of Japan’s electricity needs before the Fukushima disaster. The government even had plans to increase that dependence to over 50 per cent by 2030.
But public concern meant the plants not only had to be shut for maintenance, but the government is also loath to reopen them, according to Reuters. As a result, Japan is having to spend billions more on oil and gas imports, leading to its first deficit in more than three decades in 2011.
Renewable energy as an alternative is currently not well-developed enough to replace nuclear power. Hydroelectric energy accounts for about nine per cent of Japan’s power generation. Wind and solar together contribute about one per cent.
Electricity producers are worried that if Japan suffers no electricity shortages over this non-nuclear summer, public opposition to nuclear energy would become stronger, leading to a permanent shutdown of nuclear plants.
It could increase Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions
The Ministry of Environment projects that Japan will produce about 15 per cent (180-210 million tons) more greenhouse gas emissions this fiscal year than it did in 1990, raising doubts about whether it will be able to meet the Kyoto Protocol goal to slash 1990-level emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, the AP reports.
It would also erase much of the progress made in emission reduction over the last 10 years.
As previously mentioned, Japan hasn’t developed renewable energy sources as much as, say, Germany (another country trying to phase out nuclear power). And while the Japanese government will require utilities to buy power from renewable energy producers starting in July, higher production costs will mean higher prices for consumers.
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