NAGOYA, Oct. 25 (Kyodo) — NGK Insulators Ltd. has suspended sales of its sodium-sulfur batteries until the cause of a fire in September at Mitsubishi Materials Corp., one of the batteries' corporate users, can be identified, company officials said Tuesday.
NGK Insulators is the sole firm worldwide that manufactures sodium-sulfur batteries, known for its capability to store large volumes of electricity.
Demand for the batteries has been growing among firms that worry that power supply may become inadequate due to difficulties at nuclear power plants in idling and restarting the operations of reactors amid a public outcry on atomic energy induced by the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power station.
The Sept. 21 fire at Mitsubishi Materials' factory in Joso, Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, generated harmful gases. No person was injured by the fire.
NGK Insulators' in-house probe panel has been seeking to identify the fire's cause in cooperation with local fire authorities. Meanwhile, it has been appealing for the batteries' other users to refrain from using them until the cause is identified, enabling it to take remedial steps.
The company had been projecting sodium-sulfur battery-related sales of 28 billion yen for fiscal 2011 to next March 31 before the fire pounded the Ibaraki plant.