Tokyo: A Japanese power company postponed
its decision on Saturday on a government request that it halt three
reactors at a coastal nuclear plant until safety measures can
be improved to guard against future earthquakes and tsunamis.
Shutting down the reactors would likely worsen power
shortages expected this summer.
On Friday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he had asked
Chubu Electric Power Co. to suspend operation of the reactors
at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in Shizuoka prefecture
until a seawall is built and backup systems are improved.
Though not legally binding, the request is a virtual order.
The government is reviewing the safety of the
country`s 54 atomic reactors since a March 11 earthquake and
tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the
The disaster left more than 25,000 people dead or
missing on the northeast coast.
The Hamaoka plant, which is about 125 miles (200
kilometers) west of Tokyo in an area where a major quake is
expected within decades, has been a major concern for years.
Chubu Electric executives failed to reach a decision
after discussing the request Saturday afternoon and decided to
meet again after the weekend, company official Mikio Inomata
At issue is how to make up for the power shortages
that would result from the shutdown of the three reactors.
Inomata said they account for more than 10 percent of the
company`s power supply.
Chubu Electric has estimated maximum output of about
30 million kilowatts this summer with the three Hamaoka
reactors running, with estimated demand of about 26 million
"It would be tight," Inomata said, adding that
officials are discussing the possibility of boosting output
from gas, oil and coal-fueled power plants and purchasing
power from other utility companies.
Kan said the shutdown request was for the "people`s
"If an accident occurs at Hamaoka, it could create
serious consequences," he said Friday.
He noted that experts estimate there is a 90 percent
chance that a quake with a magnitude of 8.0 or higher will
strike the region within 30 years.
Since the March 11 disasters, Chubu Electric has drawn
up safety measures that include building a 40-foot-high
(12-meter-high) seawall nearly a mile (1.5 kilometers) long
over the next two to three years, company officials said.
The company also promised to install additional
emergency backup generators and other equipment and improve
the water tightness of the reactor buildings.
The plant does not have a concrete sea barrier now.
Sand hills between the ocean and the plant are about 32 to 50
feet (10 to 15 meters) high, deemed enough to defend against a
tsunami around 26 feet (8 meters) high, officials said.
Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu called Friday`s
government request "a wise decision" and vowed to secure
alternative sources of energy.