National

Restart of quake-hit Hokkaido thermal power plant delayed until Wednesday

Kyodo

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has postponed the restart of a major thermal power plant — initially scheduled for Tuesday — to Wednesday, the utility said.

The firm was set to restart the No. 1 unit at the Tomato-Atsuma thermal plant Tuesday after being offline since a powerful earthquake struck Hokkaido on Sept. 6, but the prep work took more time than expected, the utility said.

The plant generated a total of 1.65 million kilowatts of electricity, which is about a half of Hokkaido’s power consumption, before the magnitude 6.7 quake struck, but its three units were forced to shut following boiler damage and a fire.

Hokkaido Electric Power Vice President Yutaka Fujii said that with the restart of the No. 1 unit at the plant the company would be able to supply 3.91 million kW of electricity, more than the pre-quake peak demand of 3.83 million kW.

Initially, Hokkaido Electric planned to reboot the No. 1 unit with an output of 350,000 kW at the end of September or later. But the operator made better progress than planned, as the damage was less significant than had been thought and repair work ended ahead of schedule.

“I want to apologize for causing great trouble after the power supply was cut off across Hokkaido,” Fujii said, while calling for continued cooperation to save electricity.

Also on Tuesday, some elementary, junior high and high schools reopened in the town of Atsuma, hardest-hit by the quake, as well as in the neighboring towns of Mukawa and Abira. All schools in the prefecture have now reopened.

But it is likely to take some time for school life to be fully restored, as, but three of the five schools in Atsuma continue to serve as evacuation centers. “I am looking forward to physical education and arts and crafts classes,” said Takefu Onishi, an 8-year-old third grader at Atsuma Chuo Elementary School.

Kenji Nambara, the principal of Atsuma High School, said he hoped students would keep in their hearts 16-year-old classmate Maika Takimoto, who lost her life in the quake.

“She was a cheerful girl always surrounded by her peers,” he said. The town has begun to provide public housing for evacuees, and is set to survey all its roughly 5,000 homes to assess damage.

The earthquake caused massive landslides, claimed the lives of 41 people and injured another 681 across the island. Nearly 1,400 remained in evacuation centers as of Friday.

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