(Adds details, table)
By Osamu Tsukimori and Chikafumi Hodo
TOKYO, March 26 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T), Japan’s biggest utility, said on Wednesday it would postpone the start of commercial operations at four new nuclear power generators by one year to implement safety measures.
TEPCO also said it would bring forward the start of two coal generation projects by a year, to the business year 2013/14.
The delay for nuclear generators comes after the indefinite shutdown of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s largest nuclear complex, following a powerful earthquake in July 2007.
Analysts say the plant is unlikely to get clearance to be restarted before the second quarter of 2009 as the inspection and restoration work was under way. [ID:nSP343324]
“We cannot project the plans for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa’s operations,” said TEPCO Executive Vice-President Masataka Shimizu, who is set to become the president in June. “We are doing our best to restore the plant.”
TEPCO also said on Wednesday it expects to be able to meet its peak summer electricity demand helped by a number of measures including working its other nuclear plants and thermal plants harder.
Shimizu said that all the 10 generators at TEPCO’s remaining two nuclear power plants in Fukushima will be in operation this August, while it plans to buy in 500 megawatts of electricity from other utilities if the demand surged in the summer.
TEPCO also plans to start commercial operations of its two new liquefied natural gas-fired generators with total capacity of 1,007 megawatts in July.
The start date of the commercial operations at its Fukushima Daiichi plant’s seventh and eighth nuclear generators will be delayed by one year to 2014 and 2015, while the target date of its new Higashidori plant’s No. 1 unit has been pushed back to 2015 and the No. 2 unit to business year 2018/2019 or after.
Analysts said TEPCO’s move was not surprising as it needed more time to ensure the safety of new nuclear plants.
Yet this meant that the company was required to pay large sums to buy fossil fuels to run their thermal power plant to make up for the shortage of nuclear power.
“The move by TEPCO ... was not surprising as it will be very important for TEPCO and the government to ensure safety if a nuclear facility is hit by an earthquake,” a trader at a Japanese trading house said.
TEPCO’s nuclear plants on average are likely to operate at an average 40-45 percent of capacity next business year, compared with an estimated 45 percent for the current year ending March 31, Shimizu told reporters.
TEPCO said it is projected to burn 11.4 million kilolitres (71.7 million barrels, or about 200,000 barrels per day) of crude oil and fuel oil combined in the business year from April, up 1 million kl from the estimated volumes for 2007/08.
Around 70 percent of oil that TEPCO burns is fuel oil, and the rest is direct-burning crude oil, but the fuel oil’s ratio is projected to be slightly higher in the next business year, a TEPCO official said.
TEPCO’s fuel usage plan is based on the assumption that its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant would stay shut for the year ending in March 2009.
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant shutdown boosted emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by around 24 million tonnes in 2007/08, raising the firm’s total CO2 emissions to around 127 million tonnes, TEPCO said.
TEPCO also projected capital expenditures of 630 billion yen ($6.30 billion) or more on average in the next three business years from April, up from an estimated 570 billion yen in 2007/08.
Following is a table of TEPCO’s consumption outlook for the year from April, while the figures for the estimated volumes for 2007/08 are in brackets. Volumes of crude and fuel oil are in kilolitres; LNG and coal in tonnes.
CONSUMPTION Crude oil and fuel oil: 11,400,000 (10,400,000) LNG : 19,200,000 (19,600,000) Coal : 3,200,000 ( 3,400,000) ($1=100.02 Yen) (Editing by James Jukwey)