* Mayors say no utility should depend on single energy
* Only two of 54 reactors on stream a year after nuclear
* Government wants some units restarted to cope with summer
By Risa Maeda
TOKYO, Feb 27 Three of Japan's major
cities called for Kansai Electric Power Co, its second
largest nuclear generator, to draw up a plan to switch to other
energy sources nearly a year after the country suffered the
world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
The mayors of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, home to a total of 5.7
million people, on Monday submitted questions on prospects for
alternative energy supplies and price incentives to curb demand.
The cities hold a total 12 percent stake in Kansai. Nuclear
power accounted for 44 percent of demand in Kansai's base in
western Japan in the year to March 2011 -- making it the
country's most nuclear-dependent utility.
Only two of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors are on stream after
an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant,
run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, the largest
Many are stopped for regular maintenance and must undergo
"stress tests" before they are restarted.
The mayors also expressed concern about the
vulnerability of any utility relying on a single power source.
Tepco had to introduce rolling blackouts after last March's
disaster and imposed power saving measures on large users.
"In light of the March 11 incident at the
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant...should a critical incident
hit Kansai Electric Power Co's region...it is clear that
citizens' lives and economic activities would be greatly
affected," the mayors said in their submission to Kansai
Electric's president, Makoto Yagi.
"We should therefore create a power supply system not
dependent on nuclear power as early as possible."
The mayors' move could prompt other shareholders to follow
A government official in Osaka, whose Mayor Toru Hashimoto
has become increasingly forthright in opposing nuclear power,
said the cities sought a reply by March 15. They would then
decide on making a proposal to a general shareholder meeting.
Japan has abandoned a 2010 plan to boost the share of
nuclear power to more than 50 percent of demand by 2030 as
authorities debate the future role of atomic energy.
The central government is, however, keen to get some
reactors running again to avoid a potentially damaging power
shortage during periods of high demand in the summer.
Kansai Electric wants to restart at least two of its 11
reactors, now all offline, after the nuclear watchdog this month
said the units "passed" stress tests - computer simulations
evaluating reactions to severe events.
Local governments must also give their clearance for what
would be the first reactors to restart since the disaster. Tests
on 14 reactors run by eight utilities are under review.
Without approval for restarts, all reactors could be shut by
early May, boosting the use of fossil fuels and adding over $30
billion a year to energy costs, according to the government.
Opinion polls last year showed about three-quarters of the
public want at least a gradual exit from nuclear power. Osaka
activists are seeking a referendum on scrapping atomic power,
though enthusiasm for campaigning overall appears to be waning.
One survey by Nikkei electronic media this month showed 48
percent support for the restart of reactors to meet short-term
(Editing by Ron Popeski and Anthony Barker)