UPDATE 2-Japan orders nuclear safety steps, plans energy review

* New steps aimed at ensuring nuclear plant safety against
tsunami

* Mobile generators, fire trucks, training must be in place
in April

* Japan to review energy policy to promote renewables -trade
minister

* Ministry studying ways to expand power supply from west to
east

(Rewrites with review of energy policy, adds details)

By Risa Maeda

TOKYO, March 30 (Reuters) – Japan’s trade ministry ordered
nuclear power plant operators to take immediate steps to improve
emergency preparedness and will review energy policies to
promote renewable sources and ease power shortages as it
grapples with a nuclear safety crisis.

The ministry said on Wednesday that nuclear plants would be
required by mid-April to deploy back-up mobile power generators
and fire trucks able to pump water, while beefing up training
programmes and manuals, aiming to avoid a repeat of the crisis
at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

It will also look at longer-term solutions such as requiring
higher sea walls at nuclear stations and will review its energy
policy to encourage renewables, although it reiterated that
nuclear power was expected to retain an important role.

“As Prime Minister (Naoto) Kan has said in parliamentary
debates, I think we should also put emphasis on renewable energy
sources, such as solar power,” Trade Minister Banri Kaieda told
a news conference.

“We should discuss our energy policy as a whole.”

The crippled Fukushima complex in northeastern
Japan continues leaking radiation more than two weeks
after it was battered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a
14-metre (46-foot) tsunami.

The government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric
Power Co , have conceded there is no end in sight to the
world’s worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl accident a
quarter of a century ago.

IMMEDIATE STEPS

The immediate safety measures ordered by the ministry are
intended to prevent a tsunami from knocking out power, and
especially cooling systems, at nuclear reactors and pools of
spent fuel rods, which was the main cause of the crises at four
Fukushima Daiichi reactors.

The plants would be allowed to continue operations during
the implementation of the safety measures, which must be
verified by the government by end-April, in order to ensure
sufficient power supplies.

“These are the minimum steps we can think of right now that
should be done immediately,” Kaieda said.

Japan’s regional utilities have already announced plans to
address safety concerns.

Central Japan’s Chubu Electric Power Co said
last week it would build a 12-metre tsunami wall over
the next few years to protect its Hamaoka plant, located in a
coastal region where the government has predicted a high
probability of a major earthquake within the next three decades.
[ID:nL3E7EN18J]

Kansai Electric Power Co , which serves Japan’s
second-largest metropolis in Osaka, said it would spend 50
billion to 100 billion yen ($620 million-$1.23 billion) on
improving safety for its nuclear plants. [ID:nL3E7ES0UN].

Nearly 90 percent of Japan’s 54 reactors have yet
to comply with upgraded 2006 safety guidelines for protection
from a massive tsunami.

Kaieda said nuclear power, which accounts for 30 percent of
Japan’s electricity output, was an important part of its energy
portfolio, and running reactors in the undamaged west was
essential to secure power for overall industrial output.

The Tokyo area has been hit by rolling power blackouts since
the quake took out more than 20 percent of Tokyo Electric’s
generating capacity, including the Fukushima complex.

Fears are mounting that wider power outages in the peak
demand months of summer could severely harm Japan’s economy.

Incompatible power frequencies in eastern and western Japan
make it impossible for Tokyo and the battered northeast to tap
power from the west, except through special linkage facilities
that so far can only provide a modest 1,000 megawatts (MW).

“We’re studying measures now, but we’d like to have more
power being provided to the east from the west,” Kaieda said.

Tokyo Electric, which on Wednesday said it would scrap the
Fukushima plant’s four troubled reactors, could face a shortfall
of nearly 10,000 MW in the summer.

(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

UPDATE 2-Japan orders nuclear safety steps, plans energy review