JAPAN, FRANCE FACE DECISIONS ON NUCLEAR PLANT CLOSURES
Experts determined that a nuclear reactor on the west coast of Japan is located on ground at high risk of an earthquake, beginning a process that will likely end with the first permanent shutdown following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Closing the reactor would be the most stringent measure yet adopted, though the industry currently only has two out of 50 reactors running as it awaits safety checks from the new regulator. The possible permanent closing of the reactor may signal a change in the way Japan deals with its nuclear industry. "It is no longer business as usual. This is the beginning of a long-term restructuring of the nuclear power business in Japan," said a senior adviser on atomic policy. Last year, Japan backtracked on its goal to totally phase out nuclear by 2040 after plans drew sharp criticism from industry, with the chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry saying it "was not a viable option in the first place." Japan has struggled to import enough fossil fuels to make up for lost nuclear generation capacity, and the nation is now facing a record trade deficit. Meanwhile, as France faces a decision on what to do with its aging nuclear reactors, the country's atomic power regulator urged the government to accelerate a decision on its future energy mix. It takes about 10 years to develop new plants of any kind and connect them to the grid, according to the regulator, meaning the nation must make decisions quickly. The oldest nuclear plant must be closed in 2016, according to French President Francois Hollande. For the story on Japan's shutdown, see http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/05/15/us-japan-nuclear-faultline-idUKBRE94E0CH20130515. Earlier: http://elr.info/international/international-update/japan-drops-plan-phase-out-nuclear-2040. For the story on France's plants, see http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-17/france-must-decide-on-energy-mix-before-reactors-close-asn-says.html.