Why Japan is bringing back nuclear power — four years after Fukushima

12-Aug-2015 After a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit Japan's northeastern coast in 2011, leading to the famous reactor meltdown at Fukushima, the country decided to hit the pause button on nuclear power. Over the next two years, Japan took all 54 of its reactors offline as regulators reevaluated their safety rules.

The adjustment turned out to be quite painful.

Before Fukushima, nuclear power supplied 27 percent of Japan's electricity. By 2014, that had dwindled to zero. To make up the gap, Japan has had to import more coal, oil, and natural gas from overseas:

That took a toll. Japan's trade deficit ballooned as energy imports rose, and prices soared. Household electricity rates have risen 19 percent since 2011, while factories and offices saw their rates go up 29 percent. The country has also had to grapple with the threat of looming blackouts by slashing energy use during summer months. And the surge in fossil fuel use wasn't great for the environment: Japan's carbon dioxide emissions leapt upward after 2011.

That helps explain why Japan's central government is eager to bring many of the country's 43 remaining operable reactors back online. This week, officials hailed the news that a reactor on the island of Kyushu was being restarted under new safety rules, the first to flip back on since 2013. (by Brad Plumer, Vox Energy and Environment)