Curbs on power use may not be necessary next summer even if the nation’s reactors are all offline, trade minister Yukio Edano said Friday.
All of the 54 commercial reactors are expected to be suspended by April unless those currently sitting idle for scheduled checks are permitted to restart.
“Of course, if all of the nuclear power plants are not operating, the demand for and supply of electricity are expected to be significantly severe,” Edano said. Nevertheless, “there is a good chance that we can get through without issuing a restriction on electricity usage.”
Edano said the government has been exploring ways to avoid issuing power-saving orders that could cause problems for businesses.
Last summer, the government imposed its first restrictions on electricity consumption by large-lot users in the east and northeast to deal with supply constraints caused by the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant touched off by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
This winter, the government refrained from ordering power-use curbs but began asking for voluntary cooperation on lowering electricity consumption from Dec. 1 in all areas except Okinawa.
Demand for power tends to rise more in the summer than in the winter.
Only three of the nation’s 54 commercial reactors are in operation, with one suspended earlier Friday, and all are slated to be halted for checkups by the end of April.
Given the heightened public concern about atomic power, it is not clear whether the reactors will be reactivated.
Three and counting
Chugoku Electric Power Co. suspended its last active reactor for checkups Friday, leaving only three of the nation’s 54 commercial reactors online.
The three active reactors — in Hokkaido, Niigata and Fukui prefectures — are scheduled to be halted for regular maintenance by late April.
The utility, based in Hiroshima, currently has two reactors and is building a third. Both are at the Shimane Nuclear Power Station in the city of Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. The other has was suspended earlier for scheduled inspections.
The utility, which has to submit its safety test results to the government, may find it hard to win local support for rebooting the reactors or turning on the third one because of staunch public resistance to atomic power since the core meltdowns last March at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
The utility said that, even without the reactors, it has enough power capacity to get through the winter, projecting it will have 12.01 million kw for maximum demand of 10.58 million kw.
It also said it plans to continue supplying power to Kansai Electric Power Co.
In the meantime, its power supply arrangement with Kyushu Electric Power Co., which began Jan. 19, will be subject to daily monitoring of demand and supply, it said.