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Monday, March 14, 2011

Rolling blackouts set for nine prefectures


By MASAMI ITO and KAZUAKI NAGATA
Staff writers

Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced Sunday that he has approved temporary power outages to prevent a massive blackout in the wake of Friday's deadly earthquake that struck northern Japan.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the rolling blackouts, the first ever in Japan, will happen between 6:20 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday. The prefectures affected are Tokyo, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Yamanashi and the eastern half of Shizuoka.

Kan appealed to the public for cooperation.

"If we continue (using electricity at the current level), there is the possibility of an all-out blackout in the area," Kan said. "The impact of a sudden, large-scale blackout would be immense and we must prevent it at all costs."

According to Tepco, the nine prefectures affected will each be divided into five areas. Each district will have the power cut off for about three hours at a time. Companies as well as households will be subject to the blackouts.

Kan acknowledged the blackouts would affect people in many ways and urged the public to be prepared.

"This was a hard decision to make, (knowing) that it would cause a lot of inconvenience to the public," Kan said, adding that the blackouts could disrupt various necessities such as gas and water supply and medical treatment. "Please be creative in protecting yourselves from this blackout."

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda also told the news conference that power demand is currently 41 million kw per day, but Tepco only has the ability to supply 31 million kw.

Tepco President Masataka Shimizu also told a separate news conference Sunday night that the rolling blackouts are likely to continue through the end of April.

Shimizu said that most of Tokyo's 23 wards, where many companies operate, will not be affected by the planned blackouts, but Tepco later revised the list, which included Shingawa, Nerima, Ota, Meguro, Setagaya, Taito, Adachi, Kita, Katsushika, Suginami, Toshima, and Itabishi wards.

The first areas to be affected include parts of the cities of Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture and Saitama. Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture, Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture and Nishitokyo also face blackouts. The blackouts for this first group will last from 6:20 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4:50 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The second group, including Kunitachi and part of Yokohama, will be blacked out from 9:20 a.m. and 1 p.m. and between 6:20 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The third group, including part of Saitama, Kasukabe in Saitama Prefecture and Narita in Chiba Prefecture, will lose power from 12:20 p.m. to 4 p.m., while the fourth group, including Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture and Tokyo's Arakawa Ward, will not have power from 1:50 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The power outage in the fifth group, including Machida in Tokyo, Kawasaki, Ito in Shizuoka Prefecture, will be implemented from 3:20 p.m. to 7 p.m.


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ANALYSIS

No signs yet of a Chernobyl-type catastrophe

By JUN HONGO and KAZUAKI NAGATA


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