Tokyo - Japan has shut down another nuclear power station, bringing it a step closer to abandoning atomic energy for the time being, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster of 11 March 2011. Only one of the 54 nuclear reactors remains in operation, and it is due to be switched off in May. Residents have demanded reactors not be turned back on after routine maintenance due to safety fears.
In Japan, memory is still fresh of the March 2011 tsunami triggered by a 9-magnitute earthquake that devastated the Fukushima nuclear plant. After the disaster, the government decided to shut down some plants, whilst doubts about civilian nuclear power plants have grown in the population.
With energy giant Tokyo Electric Power Co taking offline No 6 unit at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niiagata prefecture, northwestern Japan for maintenance, only one nuclear reactor is left in operation, on the island of Hokkaido.
Before the Fukushima disaster, nearly a third of Japan's electricity was generated with nuclear power. But the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, with blasts occurring at four reactors after the cooling systems went offline.
Japan has had to increase its fossil fuel imports, with electricity companies pressing old power plants into service. Nevertheless, there could still be a shortfall of electricity in the summer because of heavy demand by plants and offices.
Last year, big companies ran factories at night and at weekends after the government ordered them to cut their electricity consumption by 15 per cent.
Manufacturers have also warned that more production may have to be moved abroad if the situation persists, which would damage Japan's economy.