TOKYO, May 5 (UPI) -- Protesters Saturday cheered the shutdown of the last operational nuclear reactor in Japan and urged the government not to allow them to be restarted.
Hokkaido Electric shut off its reactor at the Tomari power plant on Hokkaido for mandated maintenance Saturday, making a total of 50 reactors that have been switched off with no restart date scheduled.
The New York Times said the Tomari shutdown means Japan is running without nuclear power for the first time in 42 years.
About 300 protesters rallied at the Trade Ministry in Tokyo Saturday not only to cheer the shutdown but also to demand the shutdowns be made permanent. Activists say the nuclear disaster caused by last year's tsunami was proof enough Japan should rely on other forms of energy.
"I want all reactors to be scrapped, and I'm going to live 10 -- no, 20 -- years to see that through," said 81-year-old Tadao Sakuma.
The Japanese government has thus far been reluctant to give up on nuclear power. Although it has refused to allow any of the reactors to go back online, it also has been conducting a series of stress tests to determine whether the individual power plants could withstand a repeat of the huge quake and tidal wave that crippled the Fukushima plant north of Tokyo.