The owner of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant said Sunday it will try to ease power shortages in Tokyo by restarting a gas-fired generating station that was shut down after the 9.0-magnitude quake on March 11.
Quake damage to both nuclear and conventional generators has forced Tokyo Electric Power Co. to impose rolling blackouts on densely populated Tokyo, which produces 40 percent of Japan's economic output. Tsunami damage to Tepco's Fukushima complex triggered the unfolding nuclear crisis.
Unit 1 of the Higashi Ogishima plant in Kanagawa, on Tokyo's southwestern outskirts, is due to be restarted within a week, said a Tepco spokesman, Naoyuku Matsumoto. He had no details of how much that would increase total generating capacity.
"We are hoping to get it online in a week," Matsumoto said. He said the company is looking at "various other options" for restarting other power plants.
Japanese power suppliers are expected to fill the gap caused by the loss of power from Fukushima and other idled nuclear plants by boosting generation at conventional facilities. That would raise Japan's need for imported oil, gas and coal. Foreign producers have promised to increase supplies.
Industry analysts say Tokyo could face at least six months of power shortages while quake-damaged generators are repaired.
The quake's economic impact has been overshadowed by the crisis at the Fukushima complex in the northeast. But its consequences could be far-reaching as power shortages hamper Japanese companies that are a global presence in fields from auto and electronics manufacturing to finance.
Japan shut down 11 of its 54 nuclear power plants after the quake _ a major blow in an economy that relies on nuclear for 30 percent of its power. Including damage to conventional generators, estimates of power capacity lost at least temporarily range from 10 to 40 percent of Japan's total of 240 gigawatts.
The business newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbu said Sunday the Tokyo power company also plans to restart its oil-fired Kashima plant in Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo. Matsumoto said he could not confirm that report.
Tepco will increase use of other gas- and oil-fueled plants, raising its power output to 42 million kilowatts or about 70 percent of pre-quake levels by the end of April, according to Nikkei, which cited no sources. It said the Higashi Ogishima and Kashima plants have a total output of 6 million kilowatts.
Sections of the Japanese capital have endured daily three-hour blackouts since last Monday to reduce the strain on Tepco's generators. Blackouts were suspended over the weekend due to lower power demand but the company said outages would resume Monday and last for another week.
Tokyo Electric Power Co.: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html