Japan is shutting down its last working nuclear reactor
|Japan's third nuclear reactor|
Japan is shutting down its last working nuclear reactor as part of the safety drive imposed after the March 2011 tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.
The closure of the third reactor at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido prefecture, northern Japan, means all of the country's 50 nuclear reactors have been taken offline, leaving the country with no nuclear-derived electricity for the first time since 1970.
Hokkaido Electric said it started lowering output from the reactor at 5pm (8am GMT). The unit should be shut down completely by the early hours of Sunday.
Hundreds of people marched through Tokyo waving banners to celebrate what they hope will be the end of nuclear power in Japan.
Until last year's earthquake and tsunami triggered radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan was the world's third-biggest user of atomic energy.
All the reactors have been shut down for routine maintenance. They must withstand tests against earthquakes and tsunamis, and local authorities must give their consent in order for plants to restart.
The trade minister, Yukio Edano, and three other ministers have been trying to win public backing to restart two reactors taken offline at Kansai Electric Power's Ohi nuclear plant to help ease expected power shortages of nearly 20% in the summer. The reactors are the first to be considered for reactivation by the government, but it faces an uphill battle to win public support.
The last time Japan had no nuclear power was for five days in May 1970, when the only two existing reactors were shut for maintenance, according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan.