However, there is a certain point beyond which conservation can do no more and electricity restrictions begin to bite into economic activity. Plants end up running slower or even shutting down, productivity declines, and work can stagnate.
Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power for 30% of its total electricity production. As of March 26, 2012, that number is going to be 0%.
Japan's trade deficit balloons to record high as nuclear crisis pushes up fuel imports
As public worries grew, nearly all the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan were stopped for inspections. The government wants to restart at least some of the reactors, after checking for better tsunami and quake protection.
Resource-poor Japan imports almost all its oil. Until the Fukushima disaster, the country had trumpeted nuclear technology as a safe and cheap answer to its energy needs.
Now, Japan is importing more natural gas and oil as utilities boost non-nuclear power generation. Imports of natural gas in January vaulted 74% from a year earlier and imports of petroleum jumped nearly 13%.
Japan's Kepco to shutdown its last nuclear reactor
TOKYO, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) – Japan's Kansai Electric Power Company (Kepco) is going to shut down its last nuclear reactor for a regular check, the No. 3 reactor at Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui, central Japan, late on Monday afternoon.
Kepco said that the shutdown operation would be completed by Tuesday morning. With this shutdown, there are only 2 operating commercial reactors remained out of 54 all over Japan.
According to the local media, the remaining two reactors, the No. 6 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture will be offline on March 26.
If you are thinking that shutting down some 30% of a nation’s electricity production capacity is an extreme move, you are right.
A Breach of Trust
There’s very good reason to suspect that the Japanese nuclear plants may not be re-opened anytime soon, as there is now enormous distrust of government authorities, especially after the release of a report charging that the government had secretly considered evacuating Tokyo even as it was downplaying both the severity of the Fukushima accident and the risks:
Nuclear Crisis Set Off Fears over Tokyo
Feb 27, 2012
TOKYO — In the darkest moments of last year’s nuclear accident, Japanese leaders did not know the actual extent of damage at the plant and secretly considered the possibility of evacuating Tokyo, even as they tried to play down the risks in public, an independent investigation into the accident disclosed on Monday.
The 400-page report, due to be released later this week, also described a darkening mood at the prime minister’s residence as a series of hydrogen explosions rocked the plant on March 14 and 15. It said Mr. Kan and other officials began discussing a worst-case outcome of an evacuation of workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. This would allow the plant to spiral out of control, releasing even larger amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere that would in turn force the evacuation of other nearby nuclear plants, causing further meltdowns.
The report quoted the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, as having warned that this “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns could have resulted in the evacuation of Tokyo, 150 miles to the south.
“We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai,” Mr. Edano was quoted as saying, naming two other nuclear plants. “If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself.”
The report also described the panic within the Kan administration at the prospect of large radiation releases from the more than 10,000 spent fuel rods that were stored in relatively unprotected pools near the damaged reactors. The report said it was not until five days after the earthquake that a Japanese military helicopter was finally able to confirm that the pool deemed at highest risk, near the No. 4 reactor, was still safely filled with water.
“We barely avoided the worst case scenario, though the public didn’t know it at the time,” Mr. Funabashi, the foundation founder, said.
After this damaging assessment, the people of Japan have every right and reason to be suspicious of official pronouncements about the safety of the remaining nuclear power plants. The Fukushima disaster is horrible and still unfolding, despite its near disappearance from the news.