A few few years ago - before Fukushima - nuclear energy appeared to be making a comeback in the US. The protests against nuclear energy had gone quiet for years and as energy prices increased, many thought that it might be the future. US nuclear power plants had been pressing for extensions to their contracts, hoping to extend the contracts without the previously required safety checks. Fukushima changed everything.
The nuclear energy industry no longer looks like the lock that it was pre-Fukushima. In Japan, the future of nuclear energy is even more obvious now that the last nuclear reactor is being taken offline this weekend. Replacing 54 reactors won't be easy, but living with their problems is even more painful. Reuters:
Japan shuts down its last working nuclear power reactor this weekend just over a year after a tsunami scarred the nation and if it survives the summer without major electricity shortages, producers fear the plants will stay offline for good.
The shutdown leaves Japan without nuclear power for the first time since 1970 and has put electricity producers on the defensive. Public opposition to nuclear power could become more deeply entrenched if non-nuclear generation proves enough to meet Japan's needs in the peak-demand summer months.
"Can it be the end of nuclear power? It could be," said Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo who studies energy policy. "That's one reason why people are fighting it to the death."