Tags: Japan | Nuclear | Reactors | Idle | Stress | Testing

Japan to Keep Nuclear Reactors Idle Through Stress Testing

Monday, 11 Jul 2011 11:28 AM

Japan committed to keep reactors halted by the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl idle until after the completion of safety tests, raising concerns of extended energy shortages.

The checks will be stricter than earlier tests, according to a statement released today in Tokyo signed by Trade Minister Banri Kaieda and Nuclear Crisis Management Minister Goshi Hosono. It didn’t specify how they would be stricter.

Almost two-thirds of Japan’s 54 reactors have been shut by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami or because of regular checks, leading to power-saving measures in parts of the country. The new tests will delay plant restarts and may further burden companies including Sony Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Panasonic Corp., which have already cut power usage to avoid blackouts.

‘There will have to be energy-saving measures,’’ said Tomohiro Jikihara, a Tokyo-based analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “‘Western Japan might be harder hit by nuclear power plant shutdowns because the region wasn’t expecting shortages” like those that affected eastern Japan immediately after the disaster

The so-called stress tests on nuclear stations were announced last week by Kaieda, almost three weeks after he declared all reactors safe. The reversal has already led to a delay in restarting plants belonging to Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co.

Second Stage

“Some of the reactors stopped for routine maintenance may not be restarted as planned,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo today after the statement’s release. “This has to be done regardless of the outlook on power demand and supply.”

A second stage of tests will determine whether operating reactors should be halted, Edano said, without giving a time frame. Some of the reactors may continue operating through the tests, if their safety is confirmed, he said, declining to comment on the difference between the first and second rounds of testing.

Computer simulations will be used for the tests, not requiring a reactor shutdown, Tetsuya Yamamoto, the director of the nuclear power inspection division of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said prior to the announcement. He declined to comment on how long they would take.

The remaining operating reactors in Japan, the world’s third-biggest user of nuclear power, must be idled by May next year, according to schedules provided to Bloomberg by Kyushu Electric, Shikoku Electric, Tokyo Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co. and the other power companies. All plants are required to close for maintenance every 13 months.

Rolling Blackouts

“We are considering whether we should implement rolling blackouts because the balance of electricity supply and demand is likely to tighten,” said Kyushu Electric’s spokesman Minoru Yasueda.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said last week new nuclear power plant safety guidelines are needed. Kaieda didn’t consult Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, which oversees NISA, before announcing in June that the country’s plants are safe, Kan said.

Kaieda said on July 6 Japan’s safety checks will take into consideration similar tests being carried out in Europe on nuclear plants that evaluate whether reactors can withstand disasters such as quakes and floods as well as plane crashes and explosions.

Japan said today it will refer to the European Union model for conducting stress tests, according to the government statement.

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Japan committed to keep reactors halted by the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl idle until after the completion of safety tests, raising concerns of extended energy shortages. The checks will be stricter than earlier tests, according to a statement released today in...
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2011-28-11
 

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