Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO With regard to the nuclear power station incidents and the rotating power cuts, representatives from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which is handling those situations, have made announcements and reports. I think you have heard the concrete details directly from them. I have set up this conference to give you a complete report on the government's understanding of the present situation.
First I will report on the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
We are aware that there are considerable concerns about the reactor units at this power station, including the Unit 3 reactor, where the hydrogen explosion took place just after 11:00 this morning. Efforts have been underway at the Unit 3 reactor to restart water injection after the hydrogen explosion, and after 20:00 injection started once again. Water injection has also begun in the Unit 1 reactor.
At these two units, the hydrogen explosion just after 11:00 this morning scattered pieces of the structure's roof and walls around the site. It took some time to clear away the debris so that water injection could be restarted; this has caused some concern. As of this time, when I came down to the press conference room, water injection has been restarted and we are seeing rises in the water levels. This has enabled operations to properly cool the reactors again. If these conditions continue, we would see the situation stabilize.
In the Unit 2 reactor, the cooling system has stopped, and operations have started to inject water to cool the reactor as well as the Unit 1 reactor. At one point we had a shortage of fuel for the pump used for this operation, and it took more time than expected to get it running. The water levels dropped, it is considered that there was a short period of time when the fuel rods were exposed above the water surface.
However, after 20:00 these problems were resolved, and we were able to start injecting water. Rises in the water levels are now being observed. In all cases we have been able to restart reactor-cooling operations by injecting water. If cooling operations by injecting water develop, it is expected that the conditions will be stabilized. The personnel on site are working their hardest to continue these steps and further stabilize the situation. We are also making every possible effort to ensure safety on site.
Next I will report on the rotating power cuts. Today was the first day for the cuts. There was some confusion, and I would like to apologize to the people of Japan for putting them through this trouble. At the same time, I would like to thank the people for their proactive efforts to conserve electricity.
In particular, the demand for electricity during the peak commuting hours, when electricity usage increases, was fully 9 million kW lower than had been anticipated. This was partially the result of suspended train services, but all the same it is 15 million kW lower than the amount of electricity use that would normally be expected had there been no impact from the earthquake. We do not yet have all the figures regarding electricity usage this evening and tonight, but judging from the trends we can see that the use of electricity has decreased much more than anticipated. This could not have been achieved without the cooperation of everyone involved, including the train operators, everyone's efforts to use electricity more sparingly and efficiently, and the various industries that have done their part to use energy more efficiently.
A coordinated effort is underway between TEPCO and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry-and also involving the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, train operators, and others-to balance the train services tomorrow. In particular, there is the fact the stoppage of train lines has caused great inconvenience to many people. We recognize that reliable train transport is vital to socio-economic activity. However, assuming that train services continue at their current level, it is expected that demand for electricity will surpass supply unless there are rotating power cuts, even if we assume that the maximum effort is made to conserve electricity. At the same time, if the rotating power cuts do go forward as planned, train operators will have to temporarily stop services as they have done today. This is the set of conditions we are dealing with.
Faced with this situation, we are using every tool at our disposal and making the necessary adjustments to ensure that train lines remain in operation, while preventing unexpected power outages from occurring as a result of electricity demand outstripping supply. At this point it is not possible to issue a definitive statement, but I want to make clear that every possible effort is being made to cope with the situation.
In any event, it is expected that the effort each individual in Japan is making to conserve electricity will have to be stepped up even more today if we are to increase somewhat the possibility for normal train transport. Temperatures are expected to drop beginning tomorrow, which may lead to greater demand for electricity. I am therefore calling on everyone to do whatever they can to limit the use of electricity. I know this will cause a great deal of inconvenience and trouble, but it is essential to the ongoing effort to ensure that we can secure a minimum level of train service as soon as possible while effectively using rotating power cuts to secure, at the very least, a stable supply of power.
This concludes my comments at this time.