TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Chubu Electric Power Co said on Friday it aims to complete work on strengthening tsunami defenses at its shuttered Hamaoka nuclear plant in December 2012, fulfilling a requirement for restarting its only nuclear power facility.
Chubu shut the Hamaoka plant in mid-May after Prime Minister Naoto Kan called for its closure, citing research showing that the area is at particularly high risk from a major earthquake within the next few decades.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan knocked out reactor cooling systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 240 km (150 miles) north of the capital, triggering a radiation crisis that the utility is still struggling to overcome and raising public concerns over the safety of nuclear power plants.
Chubu Electric said it plans to build an 18-meter (60 ft) high tsunami defense wall around the nuclear plant, extending for a total of 1.6 km (1 mile).
The tsunami is thought to have reached as high as 15 meters (50 ft) at the Fukushima plant.
"The difference in the height of the wall between ours and Fukushima's 15-meter tsunami gives a good margin," a Chubu Electric spokesman said.
Chubu, Japan's third-largest utility, based in central Japan and serving several major automaking facilities, said the work was expected to cost around 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion).
Separately, Chubu's own simulation showed that if an earthquake of the same magnitude as the March 11 disaster hit the region, the tsunami would rise as high as 10 meters (33 ft), he said.
The utility said it will also take steps to prevent water from entering the nuclear facility, as seawater from the tsunami was a major cause of the loss of power to cooling systems at Fukushima.
"We are taking multi-layered safety measures," the spokesman said.
But the company said it was premature to give a schedule for the plant's restart.
The government has stepped up surveillance of the safety of nuclear plants, asking for stress tests, or simulations to gauge their resilience against disasters, but has not spelled out details of the procedure for the tests or clear guidance on how safety will be ensured to allow for reactor restarts.
($1 = 78.515 Japanese Yen)
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Chikako Mogi; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Michael Watson)