A third Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear reactor was restarted Sunday after the local Fukushima Prefecture governor gave his nod of approval.

A fourth nuclear reactor in Niigata Prefecture could be reactivated soon, with the Niigata governor expected to discuss the fate of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Unit No. 4 by Friday.

But Tepco officials still say blackouts are possible for Kanto Plain residents this summer, even with one, and possibly two more, reactors online and the lingering rainy season.

Fourteen of the 17 Tepco nuclear reactors — which supply about 40 percent of Tokyo’s power — remain shut down.

Two nuclear reactors were restarted in Niigata prefecture, firing up again on May 9 and June 20.

Fukushima Prefecture, meanwhile, has been slow to approve reactivating the 10 reactors within its boundaries.

Until Sunday, the No. 6 reactor at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant had been idle since April 15.

The latest energy forecast on Tepco’s Web site said with only three nuclear reactors running, “there is a possibility that supply and demand may become extremely tight in the future.”

“Should this occur, Tepco plans to ensure a stable power supply by making maximum use of emergency supply capacity as well as suppressing demand through demand adjustment contracts.”

But, this balance could be disrupted if emergency power sources fail or temperatures spike, Tepco says on the Web site.

Tepco officials contend they need to restart a total of eight to 10 nuclear reactors to completely avoid power outages after the rainy season subsides in mid-July.

Tepco shut down all 17 of its reactors in April, after revelations surfaced last August it had falsified safety reports to cover up problems with some of the reactors.

In Japan, the decision to restart the reactors is left up to local politicians.

The Japanese government has deemed the No. 4 reactor in Niigata Prefecture safe, but final say is with the prefectural governor, who must first seek support from local mayors and residents before making a decision.

“We will continue to ask for reoperation of the reactors,” a Tepco spokesman said Tuesday.

Further information is available at Tepco’s Web site:

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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