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UPDATE 3-TEPCO gets final OK to restart second nuclear unit

* TEPCO scheduled to restart 1,356-MW No.6 unit on Wednesday

* Restart would help save thermal fuel purchases, cut CO2 (Adds details)

TOKYO, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) 9501.T received final local approval on Tuesday to restart a second reactor at its quake-damaged nuclear plant in northwest Japan, a move that will help the utility lower its fuel bill.

The heads of three local governments approved the restart after a panel of experts judged that anti-quake safety had been secured at the 1,356-megawatt No.6 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, a prefectural official said.

A TEPCO spokesman said the restart of the No.6 unit was scheduled for Wednesday, the second unit to be restarted at the plant that had been shut since a magnitude 6.8 quake rocked the region in July 2007.

The restart of the No.6 unit could reduce TEPCO’s annual fuel purchases by more than 70 billion yen ($745 million) and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5 million tonnes, according to company and Reuters calculations.

As part of an initial test, the company plans to operate the unit at 20 percent of capacity, then lift it to 50 percent, before moving onto 75 percent and finally full capacity.

The firm declined to say when the unit will begin generating electricity or how soon it will ramp up to full production, but it estimated that if all goes as planned it will take 40-50 days from restart to a final government inspection.

TEPCO in May restarted the facility’s 1,356-MW No.7 reactor, which is currently generating electricity at full capacity, though the company is now considering shutting the unit to replace a fuel rod. [ID:nT253328]

With the restart of the No.6 unit, the potential shutdown of the No.7 reactor is unlikely to affect the company’s ability to supply power to its customers as the peak summer demand season is almost over.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has seven nuclear generators with a total capacity of 8.21 gigawatts, the world’s biggest.

The restart of the No.6 and No.7 units would mean a third of the nuclear plant’s capacity would be back online.

There is no schedule to restart the plant’s remaining five reactors. ($1=94.00 Yen) (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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