INSIGHT-Japan may only be able to restart one-third of its nuclear reactors
* Of Japan's 48 nuclear reactors, 17 unlikely to restart
* Japan's nuclear reliance could be as low as 10 pct
* Utilities must clear seismological, economic, political hurdles
By Mari Saito, Aaron Sheldrick and Kentaro Hamada
TOKYO, April 2 (Reuters) - Three years after the Fukushima disaster prompted the closure of all Japan's nuclear reactors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is moving to revive nuclear power as a core part of the energy mix, but many of those idled reactors will never come back online.
Fewer than a third, and at most about two-thirds, of the reactors will pass today's more stringent safety checks and clear the other seismological, economic, logistical and political hurdles needed to restart, a Reuters analysis shows.
This means Japan is likely to remain heavily reliant on imported fuel to power the world's third-largest economy, straining a trade balance that has been in the red for nearly two years. Electric utilities will face huge liabilities to decommission reactors and pay for fossil fuels.
Hokkaido Electric Power Co, facing a third year of financial losses, is seeking a capital infusion from a state-owned lender, which would make it the second utility, after Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, to get a government bailout since the March 2011 disaster.
Continuing indefinitely to burn more coal and gas also means Tokyo will find it much harder to meet targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Continued...