TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Kyushu Electric Power has halted the ramp-up of power output from its Sendai No. 1 nuclear reactor due to a problem with a pump in the plant’s secondary cooling system, a spokesman said on Friday.
Kyushu Electric last week began the restart of the Sendai plant, the first of Japan’s reactors to begin operation under new safety standards introduced in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Engineers and regulators have warned that the utility may encounter equipment problems and failures as the Sendai No. 1 reactor has been idled for more than four years.
The utility suspects that seawater has entered one of the pumps in the secondary cooling system, where steam that turns the turbines to produce electricity is cooled, according to the spokesman.
Kyushu Electric had planned to raise output from the reactor to 95 percent by Friday, but delayed the process.
It had planned to achieve full power by Aug. 25 and begin commercial operation in early September after a final check from the atomic regulator.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a strong proponent of nuclear power, is seeking to reassure a nervous public that the industry is now safe.
Abe and much of Japanese industry want reactors to be switched on again to cut fuel bills, but opinion polls show a majority of the public oppose the move after the nuclear crisis triggered by the earthquake and tsunami four years ago.
Reporting by Kentaro Hamada and Yuka Obayashi; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Michael Perry