TOKYO, July 5 Japan ended two months without
nuclear power on Thursday when the No. 3 unit at Kansai Electric
Power Co's Ohi plant became the first reactor to resume
supplying electricity to the grid since a nationwide safety
shutdown after the Fukushima disaster.
Japan's last working reactor was idled in early May, leaving
the country without nuclear power for the first time since 1970.
The rest of the 50 reactors had already been halted for
maintenance and safety checks to see if they could withstand an
earthquake and tsunami similar to the disaster that devastated
Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi plant in March
2011, causing the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
The government approved the restart of the No. 3 and No.4
Ohi units in western Japan to avoid a possible summer power
crunch. But public safety concerns ovrer nuclear power remain
deep, with surveys showing about 70 percent of voters want the
country to ditch nuclear eventually.
A panel appointed by parliament to probe the causes of the
Fukushima disaster and assess problems with the often-chaotic
response, is to issue a final report later on Thursday.
Kansai Electric, Japan's second biggest utility, said it
began generating power from the 1,180-megawatt No.3 Ohi reactor
at 5 percent of capacity at 7 a.m. on Thursday (2200 GMT on
Wednesday) as scheduled, four days after the unit was restarted.
The No. 3 unit is expected to reach full-capacity output
around July 9-10. Its sister unit, the 1,180-MW No.4 Ohi
reactor, is scheduled to resume operations between July 18-20,
start power output from July 21-25 and reach full-capacity
generation from July 25-30, a company spokesman said.
Restarting the two reactors will help reduce fossil fuel
consumption since utilities have been meeting the power gap
created by the shutdown of all 50 reactors, with capacity of
46,148 MW, by firing up plants using costly fuel, especially gas
Before the Fukushima crisis, Japan relied on nuclear power
for about 30 percent of its electricity and was the world's
third-biggest user after the United States and France.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Linda Sieg and