Japan’s last operating reactor was taken offline Saturday, as public distrust created by last year’s nuclear disaster forced the nation to at least temporarily do without atomic power for the first time in 42 years.
The reactor, at the Tomari plant on the northern island of Hokkaido, was shut down for legally mandated maintenance, said its operator, Hokkaido Electric. As Japan’s 50 functional commercial reactors have been shut down one by one for maintenance, none have been restarted because of safety concerns since last year’s Fukushima disaster.
Desperate to avert possible power shortages this summer, the government has tried to convince the public to allow some of the reactors to be restarted. It has conducted simulated stress tests to show whether reactors can withstand the sort of immense earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
However, the public has not accepted the tests, which were conducted largely behind closed doors. A number of critics have demanded more sweeping changes, like the creation of a more independent nuclear regulatory agency.