UPDATE 1-Nippon Steel to restart Nagoya plant as early as Friday

Fri Sep 5, 2014 8:55am EDT

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TOKYO, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Japan's top steel maker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp said on Friday it plans to restart its Nagoya steel plant as early as late Friday after it was shutdown due to a fire on Wednesday, its fifth accident this year.

The Nagoya plant in central Japan, which was built in 1958 and produces about 15 percent of the country's total steel output, has suffered power failures and smoke releases four times from January to July, raising concerns about the safety of the old facilities.

Nippon Steel has received permission from local police and the prefectural government to resume operations at the plant, except for a coke oven and its related facilities where the fire started, on condition it ensured safety and soundness of the facilities, a company spokesman said.

"We plan to restart two other coke ovens as early as tonight after ensuring safety and soundness of the facilities and gradually restart other units," he said, adding that the timing of the restart of all facilities is not clear.

The plant, which produced 6.74 million tonnes of crude steel in the business year to March 31, supplies about half of its products to automakers including Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co Ltd and Suzuki Motor Corp.

The plant has about two weeks of stockpiles of most of its products and plans to bring some products from its other plants if needed, the spokesman said.

Nippon Steel, which posted a group recurring profit - pretax and before one-off items - of 361 billion yen ($3.43 billion) in the last business year, has said the power failure in January cut its profit by 8 billion yen.

The similar incident in June is expected to reduce its profit for the current business year by 10 billion yen, but the impact from the latest accident on its output and earnings is unknown, the spokesman said.

(1 US dollar = 105.1800 Japanese yen) (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

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