Bloomberg News

Kansai Electric Faces ‘Severe’ Shortage After Reactor Closures

July 17, 2011

July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Kansai Electric Power Co. will run short of capacity after it halted a reactor yesterday, heightening concerns the nation’s utilities won’t be able to generate enough power as Japan’s summer heat intensifies.

“Our coverage area was already in a very severe state, and yesterday’s shutdown will make things even worse,” Masaki Toratake, a spokesman, said in a telephone interview today. “We’ve already been requesting power from other utilities, and will continue to do so.”

Kansai Electric, which supplies power to Osaka and its surrounding regions, closed a reactor at its Ohi nuclear plant yesterday because of a problem with a pressurized-water tank. It will shut two more reactors by July 22 for regular maintenance.

About two-thirds of Japan’s 54 reactors are out of operation after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami or for maintenance, prompting companies and consumers to save power to prevent blackouts. Government plans for additional safety checks on reactors may limit electricity supply, further burdening manufacturers from Komatsu Ltd. to Sony Corp. with delays in restarting plants, and threatening Japan’s fragile economic recovery from a post-disaster plunge.

Toratake confirmed a report earlier today by the Nikkei newspaper that Kansai Electric faces a shortage of as much as 6.6 percent of generating capacity in August due to reactor closures. Kansai Electric will seek additional power from neighboring utilities to make up the shortfall, the report said.

Heatstroke Victims

Among casualties of the nationwide power-saving drive were some who tried to endure rising temperatures without air conditioning. Twenty-six people died from heatstroke between June 1 and July 10, four times the number in that period last year, while 12,973 others were taken by ambulance to hospitals.

Temperatures in eastern Japan, including Tokyo, were the hottest since at least 1961 in the final 10 days of June, at 3.8 degrees higher than the 30-year average, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Kansai Electric asked customers to reduce power consumption by 15 percent in June, and will continue requesting cuts by households and businesses, Toratake said. The government started requiring heavy users including Toyota Motor Corp. to cut back on electricity consumption by 15 percent on July 1, marking the first mandatory power-saving drive since the 1970s. Manufacturers have changed working hours and shifted production to weekends.

Kansai Electric expects demand to peak at 31.38 million kilowatts in August. With yesterday’s shutdown at the Ohi plant and the closures of two other reactors, the utility will be able to generate a maximum of 29.31 kilowatts, according to Toratake.

--Editors: Jim McDonald, Paul Tighe

%JPY

To contact the reporter on this story: Aki Ito in Tokyo at aito16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe in Sydney at ptighe@bloomberg.net


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