USA | Nuclear Power Supply Declines in Japan

Posted on July 12, 2011

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USA | WALL STREET JOURNAL | 12 July 2011

TOKYO—Japan’s nuclear power operating rate averaged 37% in June, falling below 40% for the first time in more than 30 years, as many utilities were unable to restart reactors after regular maintenance amid fears over nuclear energy and disagreements within the government on criteria allowing reactor operations.

As the temperature soars in Japan, fears of an electrical blackout rise. The country’s nuclear reactors are undergoing continuous stress tests that could strain the electricity supply. WSJ’s Mariko Sanchanta and Yumiko Ono discuss.

To compensate for lost supply, utilities ran thermal power stations high. As a result, liquefied natural gas consumption rose by about 1 million metric tons from a year earlier, the Federation of Electric Power Companies said Tuesday.

The situation is unlikely to change anytime soon and Japanese utilities are expected to use much more LNG compared with last year. In the longer term, however, it may slash Japan’s electricity and fossil fuel demand because persistent power shortages would encourage industrial users to move overseas where supply is stable, analysts said.

Electricity generated by Japan’s 10 regional utilities in June fell 5.4% from a year earlier to 73.50 billion kilowatt-hours, marking the fourth straight month of on-year decline, the federation said.

Japan’s average nuclear-power operating rate has also been steadily falling, from 58% in March to 51% in April, 41% in May and 37% in June, the federation said.

“We have seen a below-40% number for the first time since 1979, when the Three Mile Island accident [in the U.S.] happened,” a spokesman said.

At that time, many Japanese utilities conducted unplanned maintenance to confirm safety of operations.

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