UPDATE 2-Japan Hokuriku eyes rolling blackouts in summer

* Sole nuclear plant, now shut, to undergo safey measures

* Not clear when plant’s two reactors to restart

* Power demand may be weak, depending on post-quake recovery

* Summer blackouts in Tokyo, surrounding areas also feared

(Adds detail, background)

TOKYO, April 7 (Reuters) – Northwest Japanese utility
Hokuriku Electric Power Co said on Thursday it may
impose rolling blackouts in the summer for the first time in six
decades if the two reactors at its sole nuclear plant remain
shut for an extended period.

Hokuriku said that before restarting the reactors it would
impose extra safety measures the government has nuclear
operators to implement in a bid to prevent similar incidents to
the ongoing crisis at a plant in the country’s northeast,
triggered by a strong earthquake and tsunami last month.

“We still have some time before the summer, but as the
possibility of rolling blackouts exists … we’re letting our
customers know (about the risk),” Yukio Matsuoka, a vice
president at Hokuriku, one of the smallest regional power firmss
in Japan, said at a news conference.

Power demand is typically higher in the summer as customers
switch on their air conditioners.

Based on pre-quake demand estimates, the company said it
would only be able to generate 90 megawatts of power above peak
demand in the summer if the two reactors remained shut.

Hokuriku also said this would represent only about 2 percent
more power than estimated peak demand at the time and that the
firm has guidelines saying it should be able to supply at least
8 percent.

“A level below 8 percent would be an amber light for the
company,” Matsuoka said.

But power demand could be lower than expected, depending on
the recovery in business activity in the aftermath of the March
11 quake and tsunami, Matsuoka added.

In late February, Hokuriku, headquartered in Toyama
prefecture, manually shut the 540 MW No.1 reactor at its sole
Shika plant for unplanned repair work. [ID:nTOE71R03Q]

The 1,358 MW No.2 reactor at the facility is currently under
planned maintenance that had been due to end in June.

The company began planned maintenance on the No.2 reactor on
March 11, several hours before the magnitude 9 earthquake and
tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, triggering the world’s
worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s
Fukushima nuclear complex.

Separately, there are also concerns of power shortages in
the summer in Japan’s economic heartland around Tokyo, which
Tokyo Electric covers. The Japanese government is considering
ways to conserve electricity. [ID:nL3E7F60LA]

(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Joseph Radford)

UPDATE 2-Japan Hokuriku eyes rolling blackouts in summer