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Japan's Kansai expects two nuclear reactors to be restarted

12 Apr 2012 13:52:19 | lmd

The Japanese government has confirmed that two nuclear reactors belonging to Kansai Electric are ready to be restarted, a top government official said on 10 April.

Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said the government now believes Oi's reactors can endure a station blackout like the one that hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) on 11 March 2011.

"We have confirmed safety measures have been taken to prevent [the] escalation of an accident," Edano said.

Since the nuclear crisis started at Tokyo Electric's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi NPP, no reactors have resumed operations following shutdowns for mandatory inspections. The No 3 and No 4 units at the Oi NPP are the first being considered for reactivation.

When asked whether Kansai can ensure stable power this summer without using Oi's reactors, the company's President Makoto Yagi was quoted by local media as saying: "If we see demand matching last year's level, and if we have no nuclear power, the demand and supply balance will be very severe."

Yagi stressed that Kansai continues to view nuclear energy as an important element of its power generation mix.

"Our company positions the continuous improvement of nuclear power as its most important management policy and intends to achieve the world's best safety by utilising all of our business resources," Yagi said.

A source at Kansai Electric said: "We expect some units will be allowed to restart and we hope that it is a common target for the industries."

"In summer, nuclear energy is necessary for industries," the source said.

Meanwhile, as the central government moves toward a final decision on restarting the Oi No 3 and No 4 reactors, it has come up against opposition from the governors of Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, who want the reactors to remain offline for now.

Technically, the local government does not have to be formally consulted before the reactors are restarted, although industry minister Yukio Edano has said "understanding" by the Shiga and Kyoto governors is necessary.

"[If the reactors are not allowed to restart], we will respect the decision of the local government," the Kansai source added.

"The outlook for the restart of the reactors looks good. The government is highly likely to restart as they are aware of the implications, such as power outages, if the demand supply balance is lopsided," a Tokyo-based nuclear analyst told ICIS.

"However, it (restarting the reactors) is not as easy as turning on the switch of a lamp. It takes a few months before the first electricity is passed to the power grid from the reactors," the analyst added.

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