Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Japan PM asks power company to halt all operations at nuclear plant

Chubu Electric Power Co should halt all operations at its nuclear plant in central Japan, Japan’s Prime Minister says.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the Hamaoka reactors should be stopped until mid and long-term quake safety measures had been completed.

“After deep consideration, I made this decision as the prime minister,” he told a televised press conference. The decision had been made “out of concerns for public safety”, given an 87 per cent probability forecast by government experts that an earthquake with a magnitude 8.0 would hit the area served by Chubu Electric within the next 30 years.

“If there were a major accident at Hamaoka nuclear plant, it would have an enormous impact on the entire Japanese society,” Kan said.

The 3,617 megawatt Hamaoka plant accounts for about seven per cent of Japan’s combined nuclear power generating capacity. It is located about 200 kilometres southwest of Tokyo and sits near an active earthquake zone.

Kan said the government would make efforts to prevent the halt of the Hamaoka nuclear reactors from creating power supply problems.

Chubu Electric’s President Akihisa Mizuno said in a statement that the firm will “promptly consider” the request. Kyodo news agency, citing a Chubu source, reported that the company would comply with the government’s decision.

Japan has called for stricter safety measures following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Utilities now have to keep their reactors shut for longer periods under regular maintenance to make extra checks.

Kan also said some power shortages may occur in the summer when consumption peaks, but he believed that with cooperation and understanding of the public, such problems could be overcome.

Local authorities have been concerned about safety at the plant following the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima plant in northeastern Japan.

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