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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

1,130 cracks, 70% rigidity lost at Onagawa reactor building

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Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear power plant straddling Miyagi Prefecture’s Onagawa and Ishinomaki

Plans to resume operations at the Onagawa nuclear power plant’s No. 2 reactor have taken a hit, as the building sustained 1,130 cracks in the walls and lost an estimated 70 percent of structural rigidity in the massive 2011 earthquake.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. revealed the extent of the damage at a Nuclear Regulation Authority review meeting on Jan. 17 to investigate plans to bring the power station in Miyagi Prefecture back online.

Tohoku Electric plans to extensively reinforce the damaged No. 2 reactor building. It is seeking to bolster the quake-resistance of the reactor to pass the stricter safety regulations on nuclear plants instituted by the NRA in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, triggered by the disaster.

However, that may be a long way off, as the nuclear watchdog said that it must inspect the cracks and the plans before the utility can proceed with the reinforcement project.

As with all nuclear power stations in the nation, the facility, which straddles the town of Onagawa and Ishinomaki city, went offline after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami sparked the nuclear disaster.

A tremor of 607 Gals was recorded at the No. 2 reactor building when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck, but the structure was only built to withstand jolts of up to 594 Gals, according to Tohoku Electric. (Gal is a unit of acceleration used to describe how violently something shakes.)

A later architectural investigation found a total of 1,130 cracks on its walls, with 734 of them found on the top third-floor section. There were more cracks in the upper levels of the building as that part swayed the most during the earthquake.

The difference in the ways the uppermost section rocked compared to the lower portion when hit by aftershocks suggested that the structural rigidity of the third floor was down to 30 percent of what it was when the reactor began operating in 1995, according to the utility.

The lower section of the building, which covers two above-ground floors and three basement levels, was estimated to have lost 25 percent of its structural rigidity.

Structural rigidity assesses a building’s ability to withstand earthquakes and other stresses from outside without being distorted.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701180054.html

 

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Designation of radioactive waste lifted

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Japan’s environment ministry has lifted the radioactive designation it applied to a batch of waste after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

About 200 kilograms of waste stored at a private facility in Yamagata Prefecture can now be disposed of as general waste.

People familiar with the matter say the radioactivity level of the waste was confirmed to be lower than the government-set level of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram.

The ministry said it sent a letter, dated January 13th, to notify the facility of its decision to lift the designation.

It is the first time the ministry has lifted the designation for waste kept by a private company in connection with the nuclear accident.
Last July, the ministry lifted the designation of radioactive waste stored in the city of Chiba, just outside Tokyo. It was the first case among municipalities storing radioactive waste from the Fukushima accident’s fallout.

Ministry officials say as of September 30th last year, there was about 179,000 tons of waste designated as radioactive across the country.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170117_13/

 

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2016, Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Mayor in rural Japan who supports construction of nuclear plant wins fourth term

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OMA, AOMORI PREF. – The mayor of Oma, Aomori Prefecture, who supports the construction of a local nuclear plant, was elected Sunday to a fourth term, defeating three first-time candidates.

The victory by Mitsuharu Kanazawa, a 66-year-old independent, came in the first mayoral voting in Oma in 16 years. In each of the past three races, he was handed a new four-year term since he ran unopposed.

Voter turnout came to 78.89 percent.

The main election issue was the ongoing project by Electric Power Development Co., better known as J-Power, to construct a nuclear plant in the town, with the start of operations slated for around fiscal 2024.

During the campaign, Kanazawa attracted voter support by highlighting the job-creation potential if the plant is constructed ahead of schedule.

Of the three challengers, Naofumi Nozaki, 61, a former town official, said Oma should not rely fully on the nuclear plant, while Hideki Sasaki, 67, called for a referendum on whether to go ahead with the project. The third, Atsuko Kumagai, 62, called outright for the project to be canceled.

Kanazawa garnered 2,081 votes while Nozaki gained 1,523. Sasaki received 79 votes and Kumagai got 34.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/16/national/politics-diplomacy/mayor-rural-japan-supports-construction-nuclear-plant-wins-fourth-term/#.WH1H133raM9

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

7 Times More Leukemia in 2015 than 2014, 80% in Eastern Japan

Warning, this is not the result of an official study but the findings of the personal study of Kikko, a blogger who took as a base the number of hospitalized patients. But again we cannot expect the Japanese government to officially advertize it: “The number of patients diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 was about 7 times higher than the previous year.”

 

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From June 2015

Sharp increase in leukemia patients ~ Number of patients is about 7 times more than last year ~ Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Tokyo

According to the statistics of the National Public Medical Association from the hospitals of each prefecture, from April to October 2015, the number of patients diagnosed as “leukemia” was about seven times higher than in 2014.

About 60% or more of patients diagnosed with leukemia are acute leukemia,
Since 1978 when they began taking statistics, such high proportion never occured before.

About 80% of the patients are in the Tohoku and Kanto regions. Fukushima Prefecture is the largest, next, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Tokyo in that order.

Strontium 90 is the most probable cause. It acts inside the body as calcium so that it can be stored in bones and brain. It takes 2-3 years until symptoms develop. People inhaling it or ingesting it in foods such as milk, fish and meat.

http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/kawachikakekomian/13334773.html

http://ameblo.jp/64152966/entry-12045183016.html

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2015 | , | Leave a comment

Pipe checks at Japan’s nuclear control rooms conducted without removing insulation

The vast majority of Japan’s 42 viable commercial nuclear reactors have not had detailed checkups performed on the air conditioning and ventilation systems of their central control rooms, it has been learned.

According to Japan Atomic Power Co. and nine utilities that manage nuclear power plants, the checkups — conducted at only two of the plants so far — are carried out without removing the insulation on the pipes.

Last month, Chugoku Electric Power Co. found extensive corrosion and holes, including one measuring 30 cm by 100 cm, in the ventilation pipes of the No. 2 reactor at the Shimane nuclear plant in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. It was the first time the utility had removed the covering on the pipes since the reactor booted up in 1989.

Concluding the pipes were not functioning properly, Chugoku Electric reported the degradation to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

In the event of a accident, control rooms, which are staffed around the clock, must be self-contained to prevent outside air from entering.

Five reactors at the three nuclear plants that have been reactivated since 2015 have not undergone pipe inspections in which their insulation was removed. Of the five, the No. 1 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture are currently in operation.

Following the discovery of the pipe degradation at the Shimane No. 2 reactor, the NRA plans to check conditions at all of the nation’s nuclear plants, sources said.

Hokuriku Electric Power Co. detected rust in the ventilation pipes of the No. 1 reactor at its Shika nuclear plant in Ishikawa Prefecture in 2003. After removing the covers and conducting further inspections, the company replaced the equipment in 2008.

The NRA suspects that the pipe corrosion at the Shimane No. 2 reactor may violate nuclear regulatory standards, an official said.

As the plant is located near the sea, salt-containing air may have flowed into the pipes and hastened corrosion,” a Chugoku Electric official said.

Most of the nation’s nuclear plants are in coastal areas because they use seawater to cool their turbines.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/15/national/running-blind-pipe-checks-nuclear-control-rooms-conducted-without-removing-insulation/#.WHvohH3raM8

January 15, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Radiation Map: Interactive

http://jciv.iidj.net/map/?__r=%2Fvar%2Fwww%2Fjciv%2Fmap

 

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January 15, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Toshiba’s $billions lost raise questions about costs for new nuclear power

Money down hole

Toshiba Loses Billions On U.S. Nuclear Write-Offs http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Toshiba-Loses-Billions-On-US-Nuclear-Write-Offs.html 

But how can you lose several billion dollars, or ten times your principal investment, on a U.S. asset that you bought for $220 plus million? That’s the question that Toshiba executives are asking themselves.

The goodwill write off triggering this financial commotion relates to cost overruns at two U.S. nuclear construction sites, V.C Sumner and Vogtle in Georgia.

 Toshiba, a titan of Japanese industry and owner of Westinghouse Electric dropped a bombshell on the stock market at the end of December and its stock fell by one third. The bond agencies cut Toshiba’s ratings, analysts wondered if the company would have any equity left and sources claimed that Toshiba was thinking of selling its most valuable subsidiary in order to fill the hole in its balance sheet.

This announcement comes in the wake of a previous accounting scandal in which Toshiba was accused of inflating profits. After that, Toshiba seemed ready to raise more equity capital but held off. Now it looks as if the company will have to raise more money on even more dilutive terms for existing shareholders.

What prompted the sudden announcement and what does that announcement mean to the nuclear sector? Let’s go back to 2015. In that year, Toshiba’s Westinghouse subsidiary bought Stone & Webster (S&W), the nuclear construction and services company, from Chicago Bridge & Iron (CBI). It paid $229 million in cash for S&W, and estimated that goodwill, subject to writeoff, was under $87 million, with that number to be determined by December 31, 2016. Near the end of December, Westinghouse informed its corporate parent, Toshiba that “the cost to complete U.S. projects will far surpass the original estimates…leading to a possible recognition of goodwill far exceeding the original…estimate…current estimation shows a level of…several billion U.S. dollars….”

Toshiba is one of a handful of nuclear engineering and manufacturing firms in the world. Its Westinghouse unit produces one of the approved designs (AP 1000) for U.S. construction. Toshiba also owns one of the nuclear construction sites in the UK. If a firm of this size and expertise is surprised by the cost of nuclear construction, that is not a good sign.

But from a financial perspective, if a firm of Toshiba’s size, and one of the premier nuclear engineering firms in the world, is in financial straits due to nuclear overruns, just how big and how accurate in project costing does a firm need to be to take on the risks of nuclear construction? Due to the size of the projects, no small firm can ever take them on. But will the point come when not even large firms execute a nuclear project unless an even larger entity, such as the federal government or the ratepayers over a wide area, guarantees payment of all cost overruns?

Toshiba’s difficulties may reverberate beyond Tokyo’s financial district. They call into question the ability of the most expert of firms to evaluate the risks of what has become bespoke nuclear construction. That will raise costs for new nuclear power since paying a return “of and on” capital is still its biggest cost.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, USA | Leave a comment

‘Monju was not worth dying for’ – says wife of top nuclear official, who suicided

flag-japanNuclear plant official’s widow: ‘Monju was not worth dying for’ Asahi  Shimbun By KEISHI NISHIMURA/ Staff Writer January 12, 2017 A question has haunted Toshiko Nishimura since she saw her husband’s swollen body in a hospital 21 years ago.

“What did he die for?”

Her husband, Shigeo, was a deputy chief of the general affairs department at Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (PNC).

His duties changed significantly after a fire and sodium leak occurred at PNC’s Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, on Dec. 8, 1995.

Shigeo was put in charge of the internal investigation of the suspected cover-up over the accident.

PNC, now the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), entered the plant twice on the day after the incident and took video recordings of the damage.

However, the company only released the second video to the public, and that footage was heavily edited to cover up the extent of the accident.

On the morning of Jan. 12, 1996, Toshiko made a cup of coffee for her husband as usual, but he left for work without drinking it.

That evening, Shigeo appeared at a news conference to explain the sodium leak. Through his investigation, he and others knew the truth about the videos, but he gave false statements to the media about when the video footage came to the knowledge of PNC managers.

After the news conference, Shigeo is believed to have jumped to his death from the eighth floor of a hotel where he was staying. He was 49.

Toshiko, now 70, could not believe her husband would kill himself. Just days before his death, during the New Year break, their son announced his wedding plans.

Shigeo left a letter to his wife, but it did not mention the reason for the suicide.

PNC could not provide a satisfactory explanation to Toshiko, so she asked police officers, hospital workers, hotel staff and people at other places.

In 2004, she took legal action against the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, the successor of PNC, thinking that the testimonies of workers would give a clear account of what Shigeo was going through before his death.

But no details were revealed, and she lost the case.

She also joined an “anti-Monju movement” because she “could not forgive Monju for continuing to run at the sacrifice of human life.”

The Monju reactor, plagued by numerous problems, has proved a costly failure in the government’s plans for a nuclear fuel recycling program…..

Toshiko, meanwhile, is still involved in a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, demanding the return of her husband’s personal belongings that he left at the hotel.

She says she wants to tell Shigeo, “Monju was not worth dying for.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701120001.html

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan, PERSONAL STORIES | Leave a comment

Coral bleaching kills 70 percent of Japan’s biggest coral reef

By TATSUYUKI KOBORI/ Staff Writer  January 11, 2017 Coral bleaching has killed 70.1 percent of the nation’s largest coral reef as of the end of 2016, up from 56.7 percent just a few months earlier, the Environment Ministry said.

Warmer seawater temperatures last summer are believed to have caused coral bleaching to spread to 90 percent of the Sekiseishoko coral reef in Okinawa Prefecture…….http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701110028.html

January 13, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Japan, oceans | Leave a comment

Even more heavy losses for Toshiba’s nuclear business

Money down holeToshiba may face still heavier losses in U.S. nuclear business: source http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/12/business/corporate-business/toshiba-may-face-heavier-losses-u-s-nuclear-business-source/#.WHfi9NJ97Gg  KYODO Toshiba Corp. anticipates that total losses at its nuclear business in the United States could be larger than earlier stated due to a write-down at its subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co., a source familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

The development may further taint the financial standing of the company that has been battling to overcome a massive window-dressing scandal.

Toshiba is finalizing the size of an impairment loss at Westinghouse, which could reach tens of billions of yen, ahead of the release of its group earnings report for the April to December period in mid-February, the source said.

Last month Toshiba said it may need to write down the value of assets at CB&I Stone & Webster Inc., a nuclear plant builder Westinghouse obtained in 2015, possibly by several hundred billion yen.

Toshiba believes the devaluation of CB&I Stone & Webster may have seriously undermined the value of Westinghouse, the source said.

The source said Toshiba estimated the final write down in connection with U.S. nuclear plant operations may reach up to ¥500 billion as of the end of last year, but the total amount could change as the company combed through their financial data.

Toshiba has been focusing on nuclear energy operations as its core business but has been struggling to win orders for new power plants both at home and abroad, particularly after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The company booked an impairment loss of about ¥250 billion in its U.S. nuclear business in the last fiscal year through March 2016.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear plant construction at center of town’s first mayoral race in 16 years

 Atsuko Kumagai, owner of Asako House is one of the candidates!

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AOMORI – Official campaigning began Tuesday for the first mayoral election in 16 years in the town of Oma, Aomori Prefecture, with four candidates battling it out over whether an under-construction nuclear plant is good for the community.

Voters will cast ballots Sunday for the first time since January 2001. The current mayor, Mitsuharu Kanazawa, 66, faced no challengers in the three previous elections.

Kanazawa, who is seeking re-election once again, supports the early completion of the nuclear plant that Electric Power Development Co., more commonly known as J-Power, started building in 2008 on the coast of the Tsugaru Strait between Aomori and Hokkaido.

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Two of the three other candidates oppose the construction, which was suspended in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. The plant’s targeted start for commercial operation is currently set for fiscal 2024.

One of the candidates is Hideki Sasaki, 67, a former member of the municipal assembly in Hakodate, Hokkaido, located about 30 km across the Tsugaru Strait from the construction site. Sakaki, who moved to Oma, opposes the construction.

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Another is Atsuko Kumagai, 62, the head of a citizens’ group who owns land near the construction site. She also objects to the plant’s construction and proposes reinvigorating the town through fishing and tourism.

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The final candidate is Naofumi Nozaki, a 61-year-old former Oma town official. He has criticized the current town administration for excessive dependence on government nuclear power plant subsidies and has pledged to restore the town’s fiscal health and revitalize the local community.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/politics-diplomacy/nuclear-plant-construction-center-towns-first-mayoral-race-16-years/#.WHT8e1zia-d

January 10, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

NPO members donate 12 million yen in taxes to anti-nuclear city

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Tamotsu Sugenami, left, a staff member of the office for JBC CSR Fund, hands over a list of donation to Imari Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe in the Imari city government office in Saga Prefecture on Jan. 6.

 

IMARI, Saga Prefecture–In seeking something scholarship recipients can sink their teeth into, five staff members of a nonprofit organization in Tokyo searched for a worthy recipient of their tax payments.

Impressed with the Imari mayor’s anti-nuclear stance, the staffers contributed 12 million yen (about $102,600) of their tax money to the city government here.

In return, they’ll receive about 380 kilograms of delicious Imari beef to distribute to scholarship winners, including many affected by the Kumamoto earthquakes.

The five used the “Furusato nozei” (Hometown tax) system, which allows people to divert part of their local tax payments to their favorite local governments. In return, many of those governments send local specialties to donors.

The NPO, named JBC CSR Fund, a scholarship organization, plans to distribute the meat to 223 high school students, including 129 impacted by the powerful earthquakes in Kumamoto last April.

The NPO gives scholarships to high school students who have academic capabilities but are in financial difficulties due to their family circumstances.

The organization considered presenting the beef it would receive to scholarship recipients by utilizing the Furusato nozei system. In consideration, it chose Imari, a production center of the brand beef.

The NPO decided on the city as its mayor, Yoshikazu Tsukabe, expressed opposition to the restart of the Genkai nuclear power plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, in 2016. Imari is located within a 30-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant.

On Jan. 6, Tamotsu Sugenami, a staff member of the office for the fund, visited the Imari government and handed over the documentation for the donation to Tsukabe.

While referring to an interview that ran in the Jan. 3 Asahi Shimbun in which Tsukabe expressed his opposition to the restart, Sugenami complimented the mayor, saying, “We quickly became fans of Imari.”

In response, Tsukabe said, “I was encouraged, although I tend to be isolated (due to my opposition to the nuclear plant).”

The mayor also said, “Once the nuclear power plant is restarted, it will be difficult to stop again. As the plant’s operations are suspended now, it is time to switch to anti-nuclear policies.”

He added, “I will deliver delicious Imari beef to high school students (through the NPO).”

Each of the 223 students will be able to enjoy about 1.7 kilograms of beef.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701080018.html

 

January 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan | Leave a comment

Japanese govt influencing nuclear safety research? Questionably low estimate of earthquake risks in Turkey

nuke-earthquakeQuake risk for Japanese-French nuclear plant in Turkey lowered to keep costs down, sources say, Japan Times, 8 Jan 17,  Government-commissioned research firms have come up with a questionably low estimate for how badly an earthquake could rattle a nuclear power plant being built in Turkey by a Japanese-French venture, sources say.

The estimated “peak ground acceleration” — the term for ground motion caused by a quake — for the plant in the Black Sea province of Sinop is significantly lower than estimates given for quake-prone Japan’s nuclear power plants, and that means it could be an attempt to reduce construction costs, the sources said Saturday.

Turkey is often struck by earthquakes.

The peak ground acceleration for the Sinop plant was estimated at around 400 gal (or 400 cm per second squared), but some experts said it should be “at least 500 gal, based on Japanese standards” and the topography and geography around Sinop.

For instance, the assumed ground acceleration is 620 gal for Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant and 856 gal for Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant.

 The assessment was part of a study commissioned by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which is overseen by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The aim of the study was to examine potential nuclear power plant construction deals involving Japanese companies in Turkey and Vietnam……..

According to Japanese researchers, active faults are suspected to be present around the site of the envisioned plant. In 1968, a magnitude-6 temblor struck west of the site, and Turkish researchers have warned of the possibility of a major quake occurring in the region again. Residents are protesting the project. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/08/business/quake-risk-japanese-french-nuclear-plant-turkey-underestimated-keep-costs-sources-say/#.WHMQs9J97Gg

January 9, 2017 Posted by | Japan, safety, Turkey | Leave a comment

Accounting scandal at Toshiba – ruinous overpayment for an American nuclear firm

corruptionToshiba admits to a ruinous overpayment for an American nuclear firm Its share price plunged by 40% in three days as investors worried about its financial viability, The Economist, Jan 7th 2017 | TOKYO THE probe in 2015 into one of Japan’s largest-ever accounting scandals, at Toshiba, an electronics and nuclear-power conglomerate that has been the epitome of the country’s engineering prowess, concluded that number-fiddling at the firm was “systemic”. It was found to have padded profits by ¥152bn ($1.3bn) between 2008 and 2014. Its boss, and half of the board’s 16 members, resigned; regulators imposed upon it a record fine of $60m.

Now its deal-making nous is in doubt too. In December 2015—the very same month that it forecast hundreds of billions of yen in losses for the financial year then under way, as it struggled to recover from the scandal—Toshiba’s American arm, Westinghouse Electric, bought a nuclear-construction firm, CB&I Stone & Webster. One year on, on December 27th, Toshiba announced that cost overruns at that new unit could lead to several billions of dollars in charges against profits.

 Its shares fell by 42% in a three-day stretch as investors dumped them, fearing a write-down that could wipe out its shareholders’ equity, which in late September stood at $3.1bn. Moody’s and S&P, two ratings agencies, announced credit downgrades and threatened more. Toshiba’s explanation for how it got the numbers so wrong on a smallish purchase is woolly. But it is clear that missing construction deadlines on nuclear-power plants can send costs skyrocketing. Its projects in America, and in China, are years behind schedule. Mycle Schneider, a nuclear expert, says that in America, as elsewhere, engineering problems are compounded by a shortage of skilled manpower. Few plants have been built there recently.

Part of the $229m that Westinghouse paid for CB&I Stone & Webster included $87m of goodwill (a premium over the firm’s book value based on its physical assets). It is that initial estimate that is now being recalculated.

Toshiba had looked to be bouncing back from its accounting nightmare………

Toshiba’s central part in a plan by the government of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, to pep up growth by exporting nuclear-power technology to emerging countries may help. In June Westinghouse clinched a deal in India to build six new-generation AP1000 reactors, Toshiba’s first order since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011. Toshiba is also involved in that site’s costly and complex clean-up. Some think that Japanese banks, known for keeping zombie firms on life support, will stand behind it, come what may. Shares in Toshiba’s two main lenders, Sumitomo and Mizuho, slid last week after the profit warning. Investors expect more big bank loans or a debt-for-equity swap, which allows a bank to turn bad loans into shares.

The consensus on Toshiba’s latest screw-up is that a long-standing culture of poor management is to blame…..http://www.economist.com/news/business/21713896-its-share-price-plunged-40-three-days-investors-worried-about-its-financial

January 6, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Has nuclear energy got a future in Japan? It’s doubtful

The future of nuclear energy in Japan, nearly six years after the 2011 Fukushima disaster http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-05/the-future-of-nuclear-energy-in-japan-after-fukushima/8162686 By Tokyo correspondent Rachel Mealey Japan has been pursuing a dream of nuclear energy since the 1960s.

The country’s first nuclear reactor was completed in 1965 and between then and 2011, Japan invested hundreds of billions of dollars into the industry.

Money is still being funnelled into the industry, but these days it is mostly just for upkeep of idle reactors.

When disaster struck the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in March 2011, there were 54 nuclear reactors operating in the country and generating about one third of Japan’s power.

But with the triple, reactor-core meltdown at Fukushima came concerns about nuclear power in other areas of Japan. The government of the day ordered an immediate review of the safety aspects of the remaining reactors.

Today, there are just four reactors in operation across Japan (although one is “paused” while a legal challenge is heard).

Eleven are in the process of being decommissioned — six of these are at Fukushima — and decisions are yet to be made about 42 other reactors.

Tom O’Sullivan, an energy sector analyst in Japan, said five or six other reactors should come back online in 2017, but there were localised protests to some of those planned restarts.

“Some of the polling that has been done indicates that 60-70 per cent of the Japanese people actually oppose the restarting of the reactors,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

In April 2016, a major earthquake struck Japan’s southern-most island of Kyushu.

An operating nuclear reactor was just 120 kilometres from the epicentre of the quake. Roads and bridges were damaged and landslides cut off access to some areas — aggravating the fears of local people about how they would evacuate if another nuclear disaster was to occur.

Future energy needs questioned

In the years to come, the Japanese Government has major decisions to make about the future of the nuclear industry. Nuclear reactors have a natural operating life of 40 years.

“The average age of the Japanese reactors is now close to 30 years, so most of them have only a remaining operating life of 10 years,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“Once they start hitting the 40-year time limit, they’re going to have to write off some of the residual costs associated with them. Then of course you have the additional, significant issue of having to decommission them and the costs in that regard are very, very significant.”

The Government has had very little to say in recent months about its energy policy.

The most recent utterings of Prime Minister Abe were back in March — when Japan was marking the five-year anniversary of the nuclear disaster. He said his Government was aiming to achieve 20-22 per cent of energy needs met by nuclear by 2030.

Environmental group Greenpeace said that aim would be close to impossible to achieve.

“The reality is, they will never get to that 20 or 22 per cent. I think inside Government, there are factions that basically believe that maybe we can reach that target, but a more realistic assessment says maybe it will be a lot less,” Greenpeace nuclear spokesman Shaun Burnie said.

“I think the Japanese Government will be forced to change its energy policy. This cannot go on indefinitely. Nuclear utilities are unable to operate their reactors.”

January 6, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics | Leave a comment