TOKYO - Japanese utility Hokkaido Electric Power Co began shutting the country's last active nuclear reactor on Saturday, leaving the world's third-biggest user of atomic energy with no nuclear-derived electricity for the first time since 1970.
A crisis at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where an earthquake and tsunami in March last year triggered radiation leaks, has hammered public faith in nuclear power and prevented the restart of reactors shut down for regular maintenance checks.
Hokkaido Electric said it started lowering output from the 912-megawatt No.3 unit at Tomari nuclear plant in northern Japan at 5 p. m. local time.
The maintenance on the unit is set to begin at around 11 p.m. when power generation falls to zero, with the unit to be shut down completely by the early hours of Sunday.
The shutdown means all of Japan's 50 reactors have been taken off line, marking the country's first nuclear power-free day since May 1970.
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