Japan asked to reopen 900-MW Shiobara to offset nuclear shutdown

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has asked Japan’s government for permission to resume operation of its 900-MW Shiobara pumped-storage project to help make up for the shutdown of the world’s largest nuclear plant due to a July 16 earthquake.

The hydropower plant, on the Kosabi River in Tochigi Prefecture, was shut down January 29 to repair leaks in its dam. (HNN 1/31/07)

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, which supplies about 3 percent of Japan’s electricity, shut down automatically when hit by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake on July 16. The plant leaked water with low-level radiation in the city of Kashiwazaki. The facility remains closed indefinitely for safety checks.

Although TEPCO said it plans to reopen the nuclear plant as soon possible, Kyodo news agency quoted a University of Tokyo nuclear engineering professor last week who said it could take more than a year to resume operations.

TEPCO said it decided to shut the Shiobara pumped-storage project in January after discovering the dam leak when the company checked through previous data that had been falsified. At that time, TEPCO said utility operations would not be hampered due to soft demand during the mild winter.

If the government allows TEPCO to reopen Shiobara, a TEPCO spokesman said, the utility would like to use the pumped-storage plant from the earliest possible date until September 7. TEPCO also said it would buy power and work remaining thermal and nuclear plants harder to meet peak electricity demand during summer.

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