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Renewed pressure to restart Oi reactors

May 11, 2012
Power crisis 'can be averted' / Govt says restarting Oi reactors key to preventing blackouts

This summer's expected power shortage in Kansai Electric Power Co.'s service area may be averted if two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant are restarted in combination with power-saving efforts by businesses and households, according to the government's new power supply projection released Thursday.

This is the first time the government has presented a power demand-supply outlook on the assumption that a nuclear reactor will resume operations.

With no nuclear reactors operating in the country, KEPCO's service areas are expected to suffer a particularly serious power shortage this summer.

However, the government apparently believes a power crisis can be prevented if the resumption of the Oi nuclear reactors is coupled with energy-saving efforts from the public and private sectors, which initially took root after serious power shortages last summer.

The projection is likely to affect ongoing discussions among local governments and residents living near the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture on whether to restart the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, which were shut down last year for regular maintenance.

The government submitted a draft report on the assumption that nuclear reactors will not be reactivated to an expert panel tasked with verifying the country's power demand-supply outlook. It also presented projections on the assumption the Oi reactors were reactivated.

According to the government projections, reactivating the Oi reactors is expected to push up KEPCO's power supply capacity by 4.46 million kilowatts--2.36 million kilowatts of which are to be generated by the two reactors, plus an additional 2.1 million kilowatts to be generated by pumped storage hydropower using nighttime surplus power from the reactors.

The pumped storage hydropower system works most effectively in combination with nuclear reactors, which are able to generate a constant amount of electricity around the clock.

According to the projections, even if Japan experiences a record-breaking heat wave as it did in 2010, no power shortage is expected during peak hours if the Oi reactors are reactivated and KEPCO asks large-lot users to reduce their electricity consumption in accordance with a special contract asking them to do so in the event of a tight energy supply. Even if no such request were to be made, the power shortage will only reach 0.9 percent.

However, the figure is still short of a 3 percent power surplus--the amount generally considered necessary for sufficient supply if power generation facilities malfunction.

Even so, it will be possible for the government to avoid implementing compulsory energy-saving measures, such as power consumption limits and rolling blackouts.

The government projects that KEPCO's service areas will face a 15.7 percent power shortage, or 4.73 million kilowatts, if no nuclear reactors resume operation.

In that case, even if large-lot users are asked to curb their energy consumption, the region will still suffer a power shortage of 14.9 percent, or 4.45 million kilowatts.


If no nuclear reactors are reactivated nationwide, nine electric power companies will suffer a combined electricity shortage of 0.3 percent, according to government projections. But this figure is expected to recover to a 0.1 percent surplus if large-lot consumers take measures to save electricity under their special contracts with the utilities.

If the Oi reactors are restarted, there is expected to be an energy supply surplus even without efforts by large-lot users to reduce consumption, according to the projections.

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