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Three more facilities to be restarted?

July 26, 2012


3 N-facilities eyed following Oi plant restart / Process to bring Ikata, Tomari and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors back online filled with hurdles


Following the reactivation of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant this month, the focus is now on whether to restart three other power facilities--Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant, Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari plant and Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The No. 4 reactor of the nuclear plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, reached full capacity at 1 a.m. Wednesday, which will greatly improve KEPCO's ability to meet power demand in its service area.

However, the road map for restarting the three other power facilities remains unclear.

Hokkaido faces the most serious challenge if the Tomari plant, which is hosted by Tomari village, is not restarted, as people in the region cannot live without heating in winter, when power demand peaks.

Hokkaido Electric Power has a total output capacity of 5.35 million kilowatts, excluding the Tomari plant. The maximum demand in the winter of fiscal 2010 was 5.79 million kilowatts, indicating a potential shortfall of 440,000 kilowatts.

Regarding the Oi plant, it took more than two months from the time the government asked for consent from local entities to when the reactors could be restarted.

For the Tomari plant to be reactivated by the start of next winter, discussions in Hokkaido over whether to allow the restart need to begin no later than September.

As personnel decisions for a new nuclear regulatory commission have been delayed, Hokkaido residents have complained the government must make progress more steadily.

On July 18, the Hokkaido government asked Hokkaido Electric Power to review the supply-demand situation for next winter.

The No. 3 reactor of Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture is seen as the next to be reactivated after the Oi plant.

This is because it is the only idle reactor to have its first-stage stress test results deemed appropriate by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Normal procedures, such as examination by the Cabinet Office's Nuclear Safety Commission, have effectively been shelved.

Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura criticized the central government's nuclear energy policy at a meeting of the National Governors' Association on July 19.

"Until the new regulatory commission is launched, members [of the existing commissions] should do their jobs," the governor said.

He made the remark partly because even if all thermal power plants operate at full capacity, the region's power supply reserve rate in August will be only 0.3 percent.

"If a thermal power plant is halted due to trouble, the negative impact on the economy and people's lives in the prefecture would be enormous," Nakamura said.

In the town of Ikata, which hosts the nuclear plant, regular inspections of the No. 2 reactor were completed this spring. Since then, inns and hostels in the area, which usually accommodate about 20,000 workers a year, have seen a steep drop in reservations.

In July, the town's commerce and industry union submitted written requests for the swift restart of the Ikata plant to the town government and assembly.

Kiyokichi Nakamoto, head of the union, said, "Restarting nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed can help protect the livelihoods of this town's residents."

Whether the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture is restarted will have a significant impact on TEPCO's business reform, as it tries to shoulder huge amounts of compensation over damage related to last year's nuclear crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Under TEPCO's special comprehensive business plan, which was approved by the government in May, reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are to be restarted one after another starting next April.

If the reactors are not restarted, thermal power plant fuel costs will increase and TEPCO's business conditions will become even more difficult.

To avoid this situation, TEPCO Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe and President Naomi Hirose visited Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida on July 13 in preparation for the restart.

However, the governor said, "It's impossible to discuss the restart before the cause of the Fukushima accident is clear."

Kashiwazaki and other municipalities in the prefecture are also cautious about restarting the plant, making it difficult to know when the plants can go back online.

In addition, there is a gubernatorial election in the prefecture slated for October and Kashiwazaki and Kariwa village mayoral elections for November, the results of which may make the restart more difficult.

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