* Sole Hamaoka plant to stay idle until December 2013
* Spending on safety steps unchanged, at $1.8 bln (Adds comments, detail)
TOKYO, July 30 (Reuters) - Japan’s third biggest utility, Chubu Electric Power Co, said on Monday there would be a year’s delay, until December 2013, in the completion of safety measures needed for the restart of its sole nuclear plant.
Japan’s government in May 2011 ordered Chubu Electric to shut its Hamaoka plant after a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that year triggered a radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Hamaoka, the only nuclear plant operated by Chubu Electric, lies close to a zone where the government fears a large earthquake could strike and perhaps generate a tsunami that could endanger the plant.
Finishing the safety measures is a precondition for the government to decide how and when to allow Hamaoka to restart.
“We’ll finish what we’ve promised to do first, and then see how the government will judge,” Kazuhiko Okabe, general manager of the company’s Tokyo office, told a news conference.
The utility also said it might not be able to pay a planned dividend of 60 yen ($0.76) for the current financial year because of the cost of buying thermal fuel to run other power stations while the Hamaoka plant is idled.
The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co, has caused a loss of public confidence in nuclear power in Japan and prompted the government to review its energy policy.
Despite the delays, Chubu Electric’s spending on the anti-tsunami defense would be the same as initially planned, at 140 billion yen ($1.8 billion), Okabe said.
Steps to make doors at the plant watertight will be completed as planned, by December 2012. Another measure, building a 1.6-km tsunami wall on a raised embankment 18 meters above sea level, is now set to be completed by March 2013.
The longest delay is expected in the installation of additional emergency gas turbines to ensure the plant’s cooling systems work even in case of a severe accident. This work is now scheduled for completion by December 2013.
The Nagoya-based utility also said it is expected to use 13 million tonnes or more of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the year to March 2013, versus some 13 million tonnes in 2011/12. But it declined to comment on other fuel usage plans. ($1=78.6300 Japanese yen) (Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)