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Tokyo expected to avoid widespread blackout

Cold weather boosts residents' use of heaters, but the crippled grid apparently can handle demand.

March 17, 2011|By David Pierson | Los Angeles Times
  • A mother, daughter and grandmother wait in a cold refugee center in Kesennuma, Japan.
A mother, daughter and grandmother wait in a cold refugee center in Kesennuma,… (Paula Bronstein, Getty…)

Authorities said Tokyo and its surrounding area will avoid a massive blackout Thursday night despite fears that Japan's crippled energy grid was being over-taxed by cooler temperatures.

Power demand surged Thursday morning as more people turned their heaters on to combat near-freezing conditions. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda told reporters that if demand had risen to the same level again in the evening, large swaths of the Tokyo metropolitan area would be without power.

"Normally the peak electricity use usually starts in the evening, and if electricity demand continues at this rate it could lead to a widespread blackout," he said earlier in the day. "We ask that businesses and consumers cut back on their electricity use."

Photos: Earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan

In response, railway operators in the region announced that they would run fewer trains.

Millions of people are still without basic utilities after Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami shut down the nation's nuclear plants, including the Fukushima Daiichi plant now in danger of a major radiation leak. Workers began using water canons at the complex Thursday evening to spray one of the reactors where spent fuel rods were believed to over-heating.

The threat of blackouts comes even after the Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been administering rolling blackouts for four days. The Kyodo News Agency reported that more than 120 people have been stuck in elevators since the energy saving plan was implemented.

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