In Japan, it has been reported that the Sendai Unit 1 nuclear reactor has restarted.

Japan has restarted its first nuclear reactor since new safety rules were ordered following the 2011 Fukushima tragedy, despite opposition to restarting the nuclear power stations across the country.

The shutdown has been disastrous for the economy. It has sent electricity bills soaring, providing a drag on government reforms, and serving to highlight Japan’s dependence on energy imports.

Newspaper polls have shown the majority of Japanese oppose the restart, but Prime Minister Abe has made it a priority of his administration.

This is the first of 43 operable Japanese nuclear reactors, which are mostly expected to start coming back online over the coming months and years.

The difficulty for Japan in maintaining a continued shut-down, is that it is an island nation, and unlike Germany, which had also idled its nuclear fleet, it is unable to purchase electric power from other countries.

Moreover, due to the regulated nature of the power industry in Japan, there has not been the diversified investment in alternative energy sources that has been seen elsewhere. Japan’s renewable power supply is dwarfed by countries like Germany.

With the nuclear shutdown, the nation’s electric power companies have suffered a period of extreme financial hardship. Thus market reform and investment in alternative sources of power has been more or less impossible for these crippled companies.

Though there is strong opposition from many quarters, the restart of the nuclear fleet will at least allow these companies to push forward with the structural reforms and investments required to change the status quo and long-term ambitions to reduce dependence on nuclear power can be realized.

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