July 17, 2007 / 2:50 AM / 12 years ago

TEPCO told to keep quake-hit nuclear plant closed

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s trade minister told Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Tuesday it must delay restarting a nuclear power plant until its safety can be confirmed, after damage from a strong earthquake in northwest Japan the previous day.

TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world’s biggest, reported a fire and a small radiation leak at the facility after quake, which killed nine people and injured 900.

It said 1.2 cubic meters (42.38 cu ft) of water contaminated with radioactive material leaked into the sea but should not affect the environment.

A TEPCO spokesman said Trade Minister Akira Amari told TEPCO President Tsunehisa Katsumata early on Tuesday that the company should not restart the plant until its safety could be confirmed.

The indefinite closure of the 8,212 megawatt-power plant could mean that TEPCO, Asia’s largest utility, facing a power crunch as it heads into the peak summer demand period.

The plant has seven nuclear reactors.

The spokesman said there would be no shortage of electricity this week. “We will have to study the situation for next week,” he said.

A hot summer is forecast for Japan this year, and the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan said on June 15 that summer peak demand is likely to be 2.9 percent higher than last year.

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