Utility working to keep lights on in Japan
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Tokyo Electric Power Company isn’t going as far as predicting sweeping blackouts this summer. But with only two of its 17 nuclear reactors operating, it expects to fall short of consumer demand in July and August if its plants stay shuttered.
A Tepco spokesman contended Thursday the utility needs to turn on six to eight more reactors to completely avoid a shortage when Japan’s rainy season ends in early July — and the weather heats up.
“We are working to avoid it,” he said.
Tepco reactors supply about 40 percent of Tokyo’s power, including to U.S. military bases in the Kanto Plain. The plants were shut down last summer following revelations that Tepco falsified safety reports, then tried to conceal it.
U.S. Forces Japan officials said last month that if Tepco can’t meet consumer demand this summer, bases could experience outages. U.S. Forces Japan is not asking bases to implement mandatory conservation “at this time,” an official wrote this week in response to an e-mail query from Stars and Stripes.
“Our forces and family understand the urgency of conserving and are taking measures to do what they need to,” the statement said. “We continue to stress the importance of conservation, not just because of the Tepco situation, but year-round.”
USFJ on its Internet home page now includes Tepco’s daily electricity forecast, which lists the day’s supply capacity, expected maximum demand and expected maximum temperature in Tokyo. The address is: http://usfj.mil/TEPCO_Forecast1.htm
To avoid blackouts, Tepco must convince local politicians and residents that their reactors are safe, even though government regulators gave the reactors a green light. Prefectural governors have final say on restarting the reactors.
Some of Tepco’s biggest customers are making plans to help the power company avert a crisis in exchange for better rates, according to the Wall Street Journal. Honda Motor Co., Toshiba Corp. and Kirin Brewery, among others, will shift production schedules and trim power usage at peak usage times.
The Tepco spokesman told Stripes on Thursday that it has an agreement with 1,700 companies that they’ll be among the first to lose power in case of a shortage. Power use reductions vary among customers, he said.
Tepco estimates that despite these agreements, and the addition of other power sources it’s tapped, electricity output will fall short of consumer demand by about 1 million kilowatts in July and August — enough to power about 300,000 homes.
Residents of Fukushima Prefecture, which houses 10 Tepco reactors, were to discuss Thursday whether they felt it was safe to restart some of the plants.