Japan to Shut Nuke Plants at 40 Years
Public concerns force stiffening of safety regulations
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2012 6:13 AM CST
This Nov. 12, 2011 photo shows a view of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Japan. Japan said Friday it will soon require atomic reactors to be shut down after 40 years...   (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, Pool, File)

(Newser) – Nuclear reactors in Japan will be retired after 40 years of use, as part of the government's efforts to step up nuclear safety in the aftermath of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant disaster last March, reports the AP. There are 54 reactors in Japan, 18 of which will be 40 years old by 2020, and 18 more that will hit that mark by 2030. Japan will introduce legislation to close them, though there could be exemptions for plants that pass safety inspections.

Although it is unclear whether age was a factor in the Fukushima disaster, some critics have pointed to the 1967 reactors' age-related factors, such as cracks in pipes and walls, as contributing causes. Before the disaster, nuclear power accounted for about 30% of Japan's electricity, but today just six reactors are in operation. Japanese media warn that enforcing the 40-year rule could mean power shortages.