Japan Utilities Announce Plans to File for Nuclear RestartsJacob Adelman and Yuji Okada
Four regional utilities, including Kansai Electric Power Co., have told Japan’s nuclear regulator they intend to apply for safety checks to restart reactors idled after the Fukushima atomic disaster in March 2011.
Kansai Electric, the nation’s second-biggest regional power company, Shikoku Electric Power Co., Hokkaido Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. alerted the Nuclear Regulation Authority today they’ll request inspections when the agency begins accepting applications on July 8.
All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors are idled for safety assessments after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11, 2011 caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. The NRA was set up after the disaster to independently review Japan’s nuclear power.
Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric, visited Niigata prefecture today to explain to local officials that his company planned to apply for a safety assessment of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.
Tokyo Electric, Japan’s biggest utility better known as Tepco, said earlier this week that it would seek permission to start the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant as soon as possible. The utility, which had a 685.3 billion yen ($6.8 billion) loss last fiscal year, said in May 2012 that it would return to profit this year if it’s allowed to restart the reactors at the plant.
The utilities applying July 8 are expected to be able to start their reactor units before the end of March 2014, Hidetoshi Shioda, a Tokyo-based analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., wrote today in a report.
Combined with rate increases planned for sometime before October, the restarts would enable those utilities to become profitable again during the fiscal year ending March 2015 by reducing their fuel bills, Shioda said.
Japan’s nine utilities with atomic plants reported combined losses of 1.59 trillion yen in the year ended March 31. Only Hokuriku Electric Power Co. posted a profit, ending the year 100 million yen ahead.
Japan has relied on traditional fuel sources to fill much of its energy gap since Fukushima, paying 24.7 trillion yen for fossil fuels in the year ended in March, up 36 percent from the 12 months before the disaster.
By filing on July 8, the utilities put their reactors in the first batch of units to be inspected by the regulator, a step toward gaining clearance to restart the plants. All utilities planning a July 8 filing were required to communicate their intention by 3 p.m. today. The agency has three inspection teams, each of which can work at one facility at a time, the agency said this week.
Kansai Electric plans to file to restart the No. 3 and No. 4 units at its Takahama facility, spokesman Takahiro Senoh said. The company will also seek the regulators’ endorsement for the No. 3 and No. 4 units at its Ohi plant, now the nation’s only operating reactors, he said.
Hokkaido Electric will file for unit Nos. 1-3 at its Tomari plant, according to spokesman Toshihiro Kikuchi. Shikoku Electric plans to file for the No. 3 unit at its Ikata plant, spokeswoman Yasuko Takemoto said. Kyushu Electric will file for unit Nos. 3 and 4 at its Genkai plant and for unit Nos. 1 and 2 at its Sendai plant, according to spokesman Hiromasa Imaizumi.