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Kansai Electric, Kyushu Electric delay nuclear plant restarts for Kobe Steel checks

TOKYO (Reuters) – Two Japanese nuclear operators said on Thursday they will delay the restart of nuclear plants to check whether they have received compromised parts from Kobe Steel Ltd (5406.T), which has admitted to widespread fabrication of data on products.

The delays widen the impact of the Kobe Steel data fabrication scandal, which has roiled global supply chains in the aircraft, train and automobile sectors.

They also mark further hitches in the protracted reboot of Japan’s nuclear sector, which was shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

Kansai Electric Power Co (9503.T) said on Thursday it will delay restarting two reactors at its Ohi nuclear station west of Tokyo by two months to complete checks on equipment.

Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) also said it would hold up by two months the restart of two units at its Genkai station in southwestern Japan.

No safety issues have been identified so far as Japan’s nuclear industry carries out checks on Kobe Steel parts.

Similarly in other industries, no concerns about safety have been identified after Kobe Steel admitted in October it had uncovered tampering of specifications on products at some of its plants, but the scandal sent its shares plummeting and called into question Japan’s vaunted manufacturing prowess.

Kobe Steel, Japan’s third-largest steelmaker, said about 500 of its customers had received products with falsified specifications. The company supplies casings for uranium fuel rods and spent fuel cooling units to the nuclear industry.

Kansai Electric was planning to restart units at the Ohi plant in January and one in March. Kyushu Electric had a similar schedule for the two reactors it wants to restart at Genkai. The restarts will be pushed back by two months.

The government and industry want reactors restarted to cut fuel costs and electricity bills, although much of the public opposes returning to atomic energy.

Four reactors are operating out of 42 commercially viable units. All reactors in Japan had to be relicensed after a new regulator was set up in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Checks by nuclear operators have so far found that some Kobe Steel parts were used at their nuclear plants, but that the products were not made at factories that engaged in fabrication.

Source: Reuters

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