March 6, 2009 / 11:12 AM / in 9 years

TEPCO fire order may delay some nuke unit restarts

TOKYO, March 6 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T) was ordered on Friday to stop using flammables and dangerous materials at its huge quake-hit nuclear power plant, which could delay the restart of six of the seven generators there.

The Kashiwazaki City Fire Department told TEPCO, Asia’s biggest utility, not to use such materials until it submits plans on how to prevent fires at the facility, after a fire broke out there a day earlier, a company official said.

The order is unlikely to delay the start-up of the No.7 generator, which is ready to be put into operation. But it could push back the schedule for the other six nuclear generators, on which the company still requires work using such materials.

Some analysts have said the No.7 nuclear generator could start operating by the end of March, with the other generators to follow at three-month intervals.

TEPCO voluntarily stopped using such dangerous materials after Thursday’s fire, the official said, but he added that other work has been continuing. Another official said it was unclear how long it would take to draw up the required improvement plan.

TEPCO has been seeking approval from three local governments to restart the No.7 nuclear generator at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata in northwest Japan, which has been closed after a major earthquake in July 2007.

    Thursday’s fire, which occurred inside a cooling pump at the plant’s No.1 nuclear unit, was extinguished within 30 minutes, but one worker suffered minor facial burns. It was the eighth fire since the plant was hit by the earthquake. [ID:nT103855]

    Kashiwazaki City’s fire department had warned TEPCO twice late last year to step up fire prevention. (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori)

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