Nuclear Shutdown Nears In Japan
Barring an unexpected turnaround, Japan this weekend will become a nuclear-free nation for the first time in more than four decades, at least temporarily.
Japan's leaders have made increasingly desperate attempts in recent months to avoid just such a scenario, trying to restart plants shut for routine maintenance and kept that way while they sought to convince a skittish public that the reactors were safe after last year's nuclear catastrophe. But the government has run up against a crippling public distrust that recently found a powerful voice in local leaders orchestrating a rare challenge to Tokyo's centralized power.
As the last of 50 functional commercial reactors is set to go offline today, that local resistance to turning plants back on has confronted Japan's leaders with a grim scenario: With the nation's once-vaunted balance of trade already deteriorating, they now face the looming prospect of summer power shortages that could drive still more factories to close or move abroad...