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Japan left with two operating nuclear reactors

06 Oct 2016 03:49 (+01:00 GMT)
Japan left with two operating nuclear reactors

Kyoto, 6 October (Argus) — Japan is now left with only two operating nuclear reactors, with utility Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai No.1 reactor shutting today for regular two-month maintenance.

The country may have to face projected severe winter weather with an operating fleet of just two reactors, depending on the outcome of a court battle over the injunction blocking two Takahama reactors from restarting.

The Osaka high court is to open hearings next week on the appeal by Kansai Electric Power to overturn the court injunction issued in March that bars it from operating the 870MW No.3 and No.4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture on safety concerns.

Kyushu today shut the 890MW No.1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima prefecture for mandatory maintenance after 13 months in operation. The company is keeping to its original schedule to restart the reactor by 11 December, bring forward additional post-earthquake inspection ahead of today's closure.

Kyushu in late August rejected a request made by Kagoshima prefectural governor Satoshi Mitazono to immediately close the two operating reactors at Sendai to check possible damage from earthquakes that hit central Kyushu in April this year. But the company has vowed to thoroughly check the reactors during the maintenance shutdown.

The 890MW Sendai No.2 reactor will continue operating until 16 December, awaiting the No. 1 reactor's return, and the close for its two-month maintenance that runs to 27 February. Shikoku Electric Power's 890MW Ikata No.3 reactor in Ehime prefecture will remain on line during the period as the reactor was only restarted in August.

Japanese demand for thermal fuel may be sustained during the December-February winter season, particularly in western Japan, without the return of two Takahama reactors. But the full deregulation of the country's retail power market continues to cap utility power demand.

Severe winter weather is forecast, particularly for the western half of Japan, by the country's meteorology agency because of the development of the La Nina weather patterns in the Pacific Ocean. North and east Japan are projected to have average to higher temperatures during the winter season.

The country's nuclear regulation authority is expected to clear two additional reactors, Kyushu's 1,180MW Genkai No.3 and 1,180MW Genkai No.4 reactors, for a restart later this year. But these reactors in Saga prefecture are unlikely to restart before April next year.

LNG and coal use for power generation by the country's 10 power utilities hit 14mn t and 16mn t respectively between December 2015 and February 2016, down by 9pc and unchanged respectively from a year earlier. Fuel use came under pressure from mild winter weather, although Japan had only two operating reactors during the period. Oil use for power generation totalled 272,200 b/d, down by 27pc.