JAPAN | Niigata reactors to stay offline, governor says

Posted on July 27, 2011

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JAPAN | JAPAN TIMES | 27 July 2011

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida says he can’t allow the restart of three nuclear reactors in his prefecture even if they pass the central government’s stress tests to check their survivability in extreme disasters.

Noting that the central government still hasn’t gotten to the bottom of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Izumida said Tuesday in Tokyo that the new safety assessment procedure is almost useless unless the cause of the accident is taken into consideration.

It is “impossible” to restart reactors 2, 3 and 4 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant under “fabricated safety,” Izumida said.

Both the Niigata plant ā€” the biggest in Japan ā€” and the Fukushima No. 1 plant are operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The three reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are currently categorized as undergoing “regular checks,” but Tepco has been unable to fire them back up since a magnitude 6.8 quake struck the Chuetsu region in Niigata Prefecture in July 2007.

Amid strong public concern over the safety of nuclear power, the government has decided to introduce the two-stage stress tests, modeled after a nuclear safety review conducted by the European Union.

Utilities will study the extent to which key installations would be able to withstand the impact of extreme natural disasters on a scale greater than expected.

After the first phase of the assessment, the government will decide whether to allow the resumption of reactors that have been idled for checks, whereas the second stage will determine whether nuclear plants should remain in operation.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Chugoku Electric Power Co. said it has resumed operations at the trouble-hit Misumi thermal plant in Shimane Prefecture, paving the way for it to provide 720,000 kw next month to Kansai Electric Power Co.

With the help from Chugoku Electric, Kepco will have the capacity to supply 29.86 million kw to Osaka and the surrounding Kinki region in August.

But even with the increase in supply, Kansai Electric will still see a deficit in power supply versus maximum expected demand, so the utility plans to continue calling for more power-saving efforts by its customers.

Chugoku Electric said that by resuming operation at another thermal plant, it expects to secure 13.35 million kw in supply in August against an expected maximum demand of 11.65 million kw in its service area of Hiroshima, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Shimane and Tottori prefectures and some nearby areas.

The utility said when it halted the unit at the Misumi plant on July 18 that the move would not interrupt power supply in its service area for the time being.

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