Japan’s nuclear shutdown drives record deficit from importing fuels

Japan takes first step to a permanent reactor shutdown after Fukushima

(Reuters) – Experts judged that a reactor on Japan’s west coast is located on ground at high risk of an earthquake, setting in motion a process that will likely lead to the first permanent shutdown of a nuclear plant since the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

Mothballing the reactor at Japan’s oldest nuclear station would be the most stringent measure adopted in Japan since the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station north of Tokyo exposed failings in nuclear oversight. The experts’ finding is likely to send shockwaves through an industry that has long been used to a light touch from regulators.

“It is no longer business as usual. This is the beginning of a long-term restructuring of the nuclear power business in Japan,” said a senior adviser on atomic policy, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to comment on safety issues.

Japan’s nuclear operators, which only have two out of 50 reactors running while they await safety checks from the country’s new regulator, have been too optimistic about their chances for early restarts, according to the adviser.

They are struggling under the weight of losses from having to import fossil fuels to make up for lost nuclear generation capacity, which has pushed the world’s third-biggest economy into a record trade deficit.

A panel of seismologists advising the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued their assessment that a fault known as D-1 under the Tsuruga nuclear plant is active. This paves the way for NRA to rule that the station is too risky to operate.
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