The government was expected to ease its energy-saving target for the Kansai region on July 9 after the No. 3 reactor at Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture became the first in the nation to return to full operation since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Despite a last-minute intervention from an army of jellyfish, which briefly cut power output on July 8 by obstructing water intakes at the plant, the No. 3 reactor generated around 1.19 gigawatts at 1 a.m. on July 9, approximately its full capacity.
The Kansai region, which includes Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, had been expected to face the largest power shortages in the nation this summer--14.9 percent short of peak demand--because of the effective shutdown of Japan’s nuclear industry. However, the return to full operation of the No. 3 reactor is expected to narrow the difference between supply and demand during the peak period in August to 9.2 percent.
In line with that improved outlook, the government was expected to lower its energy-saving target for the Kansai region from 15 percent to 10 percent on July 9.
The revision will be effective from July 10, about a week after the official power-saving targets were imposed across most of the country.
The government was also expected to revise targets for regions served by three neighboring electric utilities, which had been expected to supply power to the Oi plant’s operator, Kansai Electric Power Co., this summer.
Targets imposed on Chubu Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. were forecast to be cut from 5 percent to 4 percent, with Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s target falling from 5 percent to 3 percent.
The official numerical targets are based on peak demand in summer 2010, one of the hottest summers in Japan.
The No. 3 reactor at the Oi plant was reactivated on July 1 despite wide public opposition and began distributing power on July 5. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will acknowledge the beginning of the reactor’s commercial operation in early August after conducting a final check.
On July 8, the plant operator had to remove a large mass of jellyfish near water intakes after the creatures had caused a temporary fall in the No. 3 reactor's output, but the hitch was only temporary.
Seishu Makino, senior vice minister of the industry ministry, who was in the central control room of the plant when the reactor returned to full operation, said: “We will now ready ourselves for the restart of the No. 4 reactor.”
Makoto Yagi, president of Kansai Electric, said in a statement: “We will continue to make efforts to ensure safe and stable operation of the plant and do our best to secure the power supply.”
Across the rest of Japan, the government’s power-saving targets will remain unchanged. Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric, Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. are all likely to continue contingency planning for rolling blackouts.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant, and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which was also affected by last year’s disaster, will not be required to save energy this year.
Work at the Oi plant will now shift to the reactivation of the No. 4 reactor, which is currently scheduled to come back online on July 18. Power generation is expected to start on July 21, with full capacity being reached on July 25.
The No. 4 reactor’s return would make savings targets unnecessary for Chubu Electric, Hokuriku Electric and Chugoku Electric, while Shikoku Electric’s target would fall from 7 percent to 5 percent.
Kansai Electric has also said energy saving in its area could be eased to only 5 percent to 6 percent, but the Union of Kansai Governments, an association of local governments in and around the region, intends to stick to a 10-percent target.
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