According to research by Nomura Holdings, if all of Japan’s nuclear plants are closed energy costs to business customers could jump by as much as a fifth, squeezing the profits of heavy power users reports Reuters.

Japan continues to struggle with electricity shortages following the massive earthquake and tsunami in March that triggered a crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility. That incident has resulted in intense public pressure on Tokyo to cut the country’s reliance on atomic power.

Currently 16 of the 54 reactors that had been available before the March earthquake are in operation, but all of those could be offline by May next year for maintenance if worries over safety continue to stall the restarting of reactors says Reuters.

Reactor closures are forcing utilities to buy more oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to compensate for lost capacity; an expense they are passing on to customers.

Nomura analysts believe that LNG costs could rise by 1.4trn yen ($18bn) in fiscal 2012, while crude oil imports for power stations could quadruple to 2.5trn yen.

“Industries with high intermediate input costs-to-sales ratios and low margins are more sensitive to the impact from higher marginal costs,” Nomura said.

In related news, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has reported its second dangerous radiation reading in as many days.

Yesterday Tepco said it detected 5 sieverts of radiation per hour in the No. 1 reactor building, and on Monday in another area radiation of 10 sieverts per hour was detected.

Radiation has impeded attempts to replace cooling systems to bring three melted reactors and four damaged spent fuel ponds under control after a tsunami in March crippled the plant.

The latest reading was taken on the second floor of the No. 1 reactor building and will prevent workers from entering the area.

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