TOKYO, April 17 (Kyodo) — The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has estimated that Japan's nuclear plant suspension may boost power generation fuel costs at nine utilities in fiscal 2013 by 3.8 trillion yen, ministry officials said.

The extra fuel costs for non-nuclear thermal power generation replacing nuclear power output in the year to March 2014 are higher than the 3.1 trillion yen in fiscal 2012 due to the yen's depreciation, which increases fuel import costs.

As utilities are expected to pass on the fuel-cost hike in the form of higher electricity charges, the ministry has urged them to save costs further.

Japan gradually halted its nuclear power plants after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused a serious accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. Only two of the nation's 50 commercial reactors are now in operation.

In making the estimate, the ministry assumed an operating rate for nuclear plants in fiscal 2013 of 3.8 percent, unchanged from the previous year.

The officials also said a panel of experts has drafted a report estimating that power generation capacity will exceed demand at levels above the 3 percent threshold for stable supply for all regions of Japan.

But the draft report urges the government to call for power savings this summer, warning that any trouble could cause a supply shortage.

If the two nuclear reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co. currently in operation are halted, the company's power supply capacity would fall an estimated 12.5 percent short of demand. But the company is expected to cover the shortfall with supply from other power utilities.