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TOKYO (Reuters) - 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 04:00 a.m. EDT (0800 GMT).

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