TOKYO Nikkei–Kyushu Electric Power Co. 9508 managed to avoid blackouts Friday, but precarious power supply conditions will continue among Japanese utilities as long as their nuclear reactors remain idle. Just three reactors in Japan are operating today, but they will join their idle counterparts by the end of April, moving the nation completely off nuclear power.

But if utilities are forced to continuously operate fossil-fuel-burning plants to make up for dormant nuclear power stations, it would likely increase the chance of breakdowns, as one of Kyushu Electric’s plants did Friday.

Boosting the reliance on fossil fuels will also result in higher power rates.”We want to get through this summer without issuing any power conservation orders,” Economy and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said. But his comment is merely wishful thinking since it lacks any hard numbers to back up its feasibility.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is holding discussions toward finalizing by around early May measures to address power issues.  But it is becoming clear that conservation will have only a limited effect. To avoid creating hardships for citizens and disrupting businesses, the government must stop kicking the nuclear can down the road and present a clear road map for ensuring a sufficient power supply as soon as possible.

The Nikkei Feb. 4 morning edition

via 2012/02/04 05:40 – ANALYSIS: Without Nuclear Power, Supply Crunch Still Looms.