The Hokkaido Electric Power company has started work to shut down Japan's last nuclear reactor and leave the country nuclear-free, the generator said on Saturday.
The company will stop power production at the Tomari nuclear power plant's third reactor after six hours of preparatory work and switch off the reactor three hours after that. There will then be no nuclear reactor in operation in Japan for the first time in 38 years.
Japan was hit by a massive 9.0-magnitude quake last year which caused a tsunami, claiming almost 15,000 lives and triggering a number of explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The tsunami caused a partial meltdown at three of the nuclear plant’s reactors.
Radiation leaked into the atmosphere, soil and seawater, in the world's worst nuclear disaster after Chernobyl. The disaster caused widespread public distrust in nuclear technologies in Japan, and power production at all its 54 reactors was suspended for preventive inspection in March 2011.
Last summer the Japanese government ordered stress tests to be done on all reactors before they were restarted, but the decision to stop using them was taken before they came back into use.
Japan is in talks with Russia to build a gas pipeline to expand gas supplies to it, to make up for the shortfall caused by the loss of nuclear energy.
The future pipeline could be laid on the seabed, Japan's former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said on Thursday.
Japan is the world's fourth largest energy consumer but has no energy resources of its own. The country is the world's largest consumer of liquefied natural gas.