sees supply decline
The Daily Yomiuri, February 13, 2003
By the Takayuki Nishizawa Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
Net output at Tokyo Electric Power Co. has dropped
after a series of cover-up scandals connected to inspections at its
nuclear power plants put pressure on the country's largest power utility
firm to shut down 13 of its 17 nuclear reactors in Fukushima and Niigata
prefectures for special inspections and investigations.
TEPCO plans to close its remaining four reactors
by April 15 for voluntary and regular inspections. If none of its other
reactors resume operations until that time, all the firm's reactors
will be shut down simultaneously.
Fearing a possible power shortage in the Tokyo metropolitan
area, TEPCO has been strengthening measures to secure the safety of
its operations and regain the trust of local governments. However, when
the reactors will resume operations remains to be determined.
TEPCO on Tuesday shut down the No. 5 reactor at
the Kashiwazaki-Kariha nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, where
four other reactors are currently shut down and under inspection. Since
January, several TEPCO employees have been checking the plumbing and
interiors of reactor pressure vessels at the plant's No. 6 reactor,
which a red warning light in the central control room indicated was
Because only about seven years have passed since
the No. 6 reactor began operating, the inspection so far has been progressing
comparatively smoothly. TEPCO intends to complete the inspection by
the end of March. However, it is not known when the reactor will resume
In addition to needing approval from local governments
to resume operations, the nuclear reactors are required to meet the
-- The reactors' safety must be confirmed through
regular or voluntary inspections.
-- The technical safety of reactors with problems
in parts such as the shroud, which covers the reactor core, must be
assessed by a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources
and Energy, an advisory body to the Economy, Trade and Industry minister.
TEPCO intends to seek local governments' approval
by offering to illustrate the process for resuming operations when the
power company restarts its reactors. However, as a result of the cover-up
scandals, local residents in areas near nuclear power facilities are
deeply distrustful of the utility firm.
Uniformed TEPCO employees are visiting more than
30,000 households in Kashiwazaki and Karihamura in Niigata Prefecture
to apologize for the cover-ups, and the firm has established new behavioral
codes for workers at each reactor, in addition to general standards
set by TEPCO headquarters.
However, local governments have been cautious about
resuming operations. Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama said, "Safety should
absolutely not be ignored."
When TEPCO on Saturday gave local governments an
outlook for the March resumption of operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariha
No. 6 reactor and the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power
plant in Fukushima Prefecture, Fukushima Gov. Eisaku Sato reacted strongly,
saying, "It's not time for the resumption (of operations)."
"We can't draw up any concrete scenarios as
to when and which reactors will resume operations," said Ichiro
Takekuro, head of the Kashiwazaki-Kariha nuclear power plant.
Observers pointed out that the more enthusiastically
TEPCO pursues restarting its reactors, the more offense it causes to
local residents. One TEPCO executive said: "To what extent should
we make efforts to gain the understanding of local residents, and what
level of understanding should we seek for the resumption of operations?
I have no idea."
Summer shortages loom
TEPCO's nuclear power plants are capable of generating
up to 17,300 megawatts of power, or about 30 percent of the total amount
of power the firm can generate. With the discovery of faked inspection
data in August 2002, criticism has been mounting concerning the safety
of nuclear power plants and TEPCO's stance on security. Since then,
TEPCO has decided to perform voluntary inspections or early regular
inspections on all its nuclear reactors, and to investigate cracks in
the shrouds of the reactors concerned in the cover-up scandals.
To manage a peak in demand for power during the
winter, TEPCO decided not to perform the regular inspections during
the winter and to cover electricity shortages by reopening thermal power
plants that had suspended their operations. However, with more nuclear
power reactors closed, it will be difficult for the firm to provide
enough electricity in March, according to TEPCO.
If TEPCO cannot restart any of its reactors, the
power situation will worsen in the summer, when power demand peaks for
The demand for electricity at TEPCO hit a record
high of 64,300 megawatts in July 2001. In July 2002, the figure was
63,200 megawatts. TEPCO Vice President Teruaki Masumoto said, "If
it's about the same in July this summer, we'll be about 10,000 megawatts
short." To cover the shortage, TEPCO would need to resume operations
at about half its nuclear reactors.
One observer said even if other power companies
assisted by supplying additional electricity, "it would be a drop
in the bucket."
Experts said if the summer arrives earlier
than usual, the power supply would run short as soon as June, or by
late July if the summer progresses as normal. Parts of the metropolitan
area could face power failures. In addition to seeking approval to resume
operations, TEPCO has mounted a TV campaign to encourage consumers to