Japan faces summer power shortage, government panel says

05/14/2012
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TOKYO (majirox news) — All of Japan’s nuclear electricity generation capability is now shut down for safety checks, and an immediate restart looks unlikely.

Faced with the prospect of continued shutdown and a hot summer, a government panel says that areas served by three utility companies may suffer power shortages. Demand for electricity may outstrip supply in August.

In spring last year, eastern Japan suffered rolling blackouts and received government orders to save power for the first time in 32 years. This may occur again, in different areas of the country, said the panel on May 12.

Fukuoka in the south, Hokkaido in the north, and the Kansai district, home to Japan’s second largest megalopolis of Osaka, are all at risk. A member of the panel forecasts energy shortages in these areas if the nuclear plants remain shuttered, and the summer temperatures rise. Compared to Tokyo’s 20 percent of electricity generated through nuclear power, Osaka relies on nuclear power to twice the extent – 40 percent.

“The important point was in case of the Osaka and Kyoto area where the electric demand will be 15 percent higher than the supply if the nuclear power does not restart,” said Takao Kashiwagi, a member of the government panel, author and professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology

Meanwhile, government bureaucrats and politicians are worried about the effect of power shortages on the fragile Japanese economy, now in the process of gradual recovery.

“The lifestyle of the Japanese will be OK, but not in the industrial sector like factories, which need a very stable electric supply,” Kashiwagi said. “Therefore, if the energy security cannot be guaranteed some of the factories will prepare to go outside of Japan. This will effect and have a severe impact on the Japanese people.”

Additionally, there are also divisions within Japanese politics and the Japanese public on whether or not to restart the reactors.

A university student said, “I think that it’s going to be really hot this year. But in the past we never had coolers or anything like that. I think that we should look to the old Japanese ways and we shouldn’t restart the reactors.”

The fear of radiation in the environment and in food is especially strong among mothers.

Yasue Watanabe said, “I like the cleaner energy that we get from nuclear power but I really care about safety issues, being a mother of two. I’m not really sure how safe we are with the current nuclear plant situation.”

While the lights and air-conditioners may remain turned on in Tokyo, the picture in Osaka may be very different. Prime Minister Noda is under pressure from many quarters to restart at least two reactors serving that area.”

However, pending the restart, central government measures to save energy over the summer are expected to be drawn up. The Japanese people are expecting a sticky time over the next few months.

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