• Kyodo

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The Tokyo metropolitan area now appears likely to avoid significant power shortages this summer, after Fukushima Gov. Eisaku Sato gave his consent Thursday for restarting one of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s nuclear power plants in his prefecture.

The reactor has been shut down along with other Tepco reactors because of a defect coverup scandal.

Sato gave the go-ahead for restarting the No. 6 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant after a meeting with Tepco President Tsunehisa Katsumata, who visited the governor to seek his consent, prefectural officials said.

If the reactor, whose output capacity is 1.1 mw, is restarted within the next few weeks, it could reduce the possibility of power cuts in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference in Tokyo, “If the No. 6 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is restarted, the likelihood of power shortages in the summer will decrease considerably.”

Summer demand is expected to begin peaking this month, but it remains unclear when the reactor will go back on line.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a branch of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, has given assurances that the reactor is safe. With central government approval, the utility could legally restart the No. 6 reactor without local consent, but the government has elected to seek local backing, according to METI officials.

By the end of April, Tepco had shut down all 17 of its reactors — seven in Niigata Prefecture and 10 in Fukushima Prefecture — for safety inspections and repairs in the wake of revelations last August that the utility had falsified safety reports to cover up reactor faults.

Of the 17 reactors, the No. 6 and No. 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata resumed operations in May and June, respectively. The rest are still offline. Tepco and METI are struggling to restart the reactors to avert power shortages in the Tokyo area in July and August.

In a related move, METI head Takeo Hiranuma visited Niigata on Wednesday and declared the No. 4 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant is safe.

The reactor is now expected to be restarted sometime later this month, as Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama has said Hiranuma’s guarantee would be one of the conditions for him to give his consent to the restart.