INSIGHT-Japan may only be able to restart one-third of its nuclear reactors

Tue Apr 1, 2014 11:20pm EDT
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* 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 (Edits to clarify paragraph 2, adds stock price in paragraph 4)

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.

As few as 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 and Kyushu Electric Power Co, both facing a third year of financial losses, are seeking capital infusions totalling nearly $1.5 billion from a state-owned lender. Kyushu Electric shares dropped as much as 7 percent on Wednesday to an 8-week low. Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co was bailed out by the government after 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...