Japan's Tepco scraps plans for new reactors at stricken plant

TOKYO Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:49am EDT

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's contaminated water storage tanks are seen in Fukushima prefecture, in this aerial view photo taken by Kyodo, March 11, 2012, the day marking the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. REUTERS/Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's contaminated water storage tanks are seen in Fukushima prefecture, in this aerial view photo taken by Kyodo, March 11, 2012, the day marking the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis.

Credit: Reuters/Kyodo

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, said on Friday it had notified Japan's trade ministry it was dropping plans for two more nuclear reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi plant, paralyzed last year by a devastating earthquake.

Tepco said it would scrap this month a 253 megawatt (MW) emergency power facility comprised of diesel generators and gas turbines at the Hitachinaka station north of Tokyo.

In contrast, Tohoku Electric Power Co retained its plans to build a new 825 MW nuclear reactor near the Fukushima Daiichi station, but said it could give no date for the reactor's commercial operation, earlier set for 2021.

Tohoku officials told a news conference they expected it would be difficult to build and operate a third nuclear plant due to protests from local authorities.

Utilities this week submitted to the trade ministry power capacity plans for the financial year starting on April 1, but declined to detail power supply plans for the summer until they gather estimates of surplus power supply from other utilities and customer demand.

Tepco, Japan's biggest buyer of liquefied natural gas, has said it would be hard to restart in 2012/13 any reactors shut for maintenance, since they face strong opposition from local communities hosting its sole facility unaffected by the quake, the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggering a radiation crisis and widespread contamination. Tens of thousands of residents within 20 km (12 miles) of the plant have been forced to evacuate, leaving behind their homes and livelihoods.

The disaster has left Tepco with huge compensation and clean-up costs, a mounting bill for fossil fuels to replace lost nuclear capacity, and the massive burden of decommissioning the devastated reactors, a process expected to take decades.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Risa Maeda; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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