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Workers at the Kansai Electric Power Co's Ohi nuclear power plant monitor inside the central control room of the No. 4 reactor which was disconnected from its power grid, in Ohi, Fukui prefecture, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 15, 2013. Japan is set to be nuclear power-free, for just the third time in more than four decades, and with no firm date for re-starting an energy source that has provided about 30 percent of electricity to the world's third-largest economy.
Workers at the Kansai Electric Power Co's Ohi nuclear power plant monitor inside the central control room of the No. 4 reactor which was disconnected from its power grid, in Ohi, Fukui prefecture, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 15, 2013. Japan is set to be nuclear power-free, for just the third time in more than four decades, and with no firm date for re-starting an energy source that has provided about 30 percent of electricity to the world's third-largest economy.
(Kyodo / Handout/Reuters)

CARL MORTISHED

Japan’s nuclear shutdown leaves yawning gap

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Japan is a nuclear-free zone. The entire fleet of 50 reactors that until 2011 supplied more than a quarter of the country’s electricity are idle after today’s shut-down for maintenance of the last operating unit. For a few Luddite environmentalists, it’s a cause for celebration, but for most Japanese, this is hideous news. There is the technical challenge of keeping the lights on in the coming winter and, worse, the economic burden of buying expensive natural gas to fill the nuclear gap. For the rest of us non-Japanese, it is a reminder of a looming problem. The world needs more energy quickly, and a decade of bad energy policy has left us with inadequate infrastructure and huge bills to pay.