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Japan’s TEPCO to Restart Quake-Hit Second N-Unit

TEPCO received ultimate local approval recently to restart a second reactor at its nuclear plant in northwest Japan which was damaged by an earthquake, a move that will help the utility to 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.

The plant 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 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 the 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 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.

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 period 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.