After shutting down several power plants following an earthquake last week that was upgraded to 9.0 on the Richter scale, Japan’s utility has announced plans to initiate a schedule of power cuts. The earthquake caused a devastating tsunami that engulfed sections of Japan’s coastal territory, causing explosions of two nuclear reactors at the Fukiyama plant. Although Tokyo’s buildings are intact thanks to superior building codes, the electricity cuts have already taken their toll on the country’s transportation and manufacturing sector.
To date, two nuclear plants and five conventional power plants have been shut down. Nikkei reports that Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has been forced to reduce its power supply to 31 million kilowatts, roughly 10 million kilowatts less than usual. These cuts will apply mostly to the suburbs of Tokyo, while the 23 districts of central Tokyo are expected to be spared.
The power cuts are creating havoc for residents who rely on the country’s extensive rail network. One Slashdot reader located in Tokyo noted that bus tickets sold out as people scrambled in the early hours to reach their destinations. Most of the trains are running at a reduced schedule, while others, like the Narita Express from Tokyo to Narita Airport, are completely shut down.
Tepco plans to maintain blackouts for approximately three hours every day until the end of April, but reports show that when summer consumption increases electricity demand by 50% later this year, the utility will not be able to keep pace. This could mean extended blackouts, which will force car manufacturers and other industrial plants to relocate production. All of the major car manufacturers – Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Suzuki have closed their plants.
Potentially the costliest natural disaster ever recorded, the economic aftershocks of the Japanese tsunami will be felt for a very long time.