• Kyodo

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The imminent shutdown of all 17 nuclear reactors run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. is raising fears of power cuts this summer and has prompted Tepco to urge consumers to save electricity.

The anticipated shutdown of all of Tepco’s reactors, which are located in Niigata and Fukushima prefectures, by mid-April follows revelations last August that the nation’s largest electric power firm falsified safety reports to cover up defects at its nuclear facilities.

According to Tepco, the possible power outages as a result of the reactors being shut down for safety checks will affect customers in Tokyo and eight other prefectures.

The reactors, which generate a total of 17 million kw, supply more than 40 percent of the total electricity used in Tokyo and surrounding areas.

Tepco said it ran newspaper ads Feb. 26 seeking the cooperation of the public to cut down on power use.

Since the coverup scandal broke last summer, Tepco has closed down 14 of the reactors for checks in a bid to restore the trust of residents in areas where the power plants are located.

Operations at the remaining three reactors will be suspended by the middle of next month, and if Tepco is unable to restart any of the 14 reactors closed down earlier, all 17 of its reactors will be out of operation.

According to Tepco, demand for power can be met up to May, but it will be difficult to do so from June to early September.

As of late last month, Tepco said it will still be able to supply an average of 51 million kw in power generation capacity. But in July and August, when electricity use peaks, demand will surge beyond 60 million kw.

The 17 reactors belong to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station and Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, as well as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture.

Tepco said the tests on the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 station are in the final stages, but it admits that it must obtain clearance from local governments before restarting the reactor.

Fukushima Gov. Eisaku Sato, who expressed distrust of Tepco even before the current scandal broke last year, has said now is not the time to consider resuming operations of nuclear reactors.

For his part, Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama said the national government should ensure the safety of nuclear plants, although he expressed concern that limiting electricity supply could have a serious negative impact on the economy.

Kashiwazaki Mayor Masazumi Saikawa has hinted he will approve restarting the reactors once the problems are resolved.

Some residents of Niigata and Fukushima, which receive power from Tohoku Electric Power Co., based in Miyagi Prefecture, are calling for operations to restart, partly out of concern over the impact that the continued shutdown could have on local employment.

“Most of our customers are Tepco-related people. We want things to return to the way they were,” a taxi driver in Fukushima said.

In late August, it was revealed that during the 1980s and 1990s, Tepco falsified safety reports and covered up defects found during safety checks at the two Fukushima power stations and the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station.

The Fukushima No. 1 station has six reactors, the Fukushima No. 2 station has four and the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station has seven.

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