Tokyo anti-nuclear power rally in 2011

Japan shut down its last nuclear reactor Monday, and the country’s precarious fuel supply is stoking fears of blackouts there and a global spike in energy costs.

Kansai Electric Power’s only functioning reactor was turned off for scheduled maintenance.

It’s unclear when the plant might be returned to service.

Japan, the world’s third largest economy, warned the U.S. Department of Energy last year of the risks of a catastrophic power failure without access to nuclear power.

Public and political support for nuclear power, once projected to supply a third of Japan’s energy needs, has eroded.

At the Fukushima plant — damaged two and half years ago by a tsunami — radioactive water is still spilling into the ocean.

Japan has now closed more than 50 nuclear plants.

Its imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have climbed to two-year highs.

The warnings about the spread of power failures were detailed in documents obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Japanese authorities said the country could only stockpile enough LNG to last two or three weeks, the documents said.

Concerns about blackouts were raised by Japan to U.S. Energy Department officials in meetings in March last year, Bloomberg said.

Hirohide Hirai, then head of the trade ministry’s petroleum and natural gas division, was one of the meeting participants.

Germany has also announced plans to end nuclear power by 2022, adding to the pressure on demand.

Japan consumes about a third of the world’s LNG, according to a report by the Guardian.

LNG imports through the first quarter this year rose 4.4% to a record 86 million tons, the Guardian said, equivalent to a value of 6.21tn yen (£39bn) in the year to March.


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