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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Nuclear waste deals that fell flat, between Toshiba, USA and Mongolia

secret-dealsThe elephant in the room for Toshiba is nuclear http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/16/national/media-national/elephant-room-toshiba-nuclear/
BY PHILIP BRASOR  THE JAPAN TIMES, JAN 16, 2016

Japanese press outlets often cover scoops from competing outlets, but it’s rare to build on a competitor’s story with original reporting, especially when the scoop is a few years old. In December, the weekly magazine Aera, which is affiliated with the Asahi Shimbun, ran an article about a secret meeting that took place between representatives of Japan, Mongolia and the United States almost five years ago. This meeting was first reported by Haruyuki Aikawa in the May 9, 2011, issue of the Mainichi Shimbun.

What interested Aera reporter Atsushi Yamada about the article was Aikawa’s assertion that Toshiba Corp. was on hand for the negotiations. In 2006, Toshiba had bought a majority share in the American company Westinghouse, a manufacturer, like Toshiba, that started out in the home electronics field and eventually expanded into nuclear power plant construction. Japan said it would buy uranium mined in the central Asian country and in return Mongolia would tap Japan’s nuclear energy expertise in building power plants and, more significantly, nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities that would incorporate the acceptance of high-level nuclear waste from Japan and other countries.

Though the Mainichi story received little attention in Japan or the U.S., it was translated and disseminated in Mongolia, thus leading, only three months after the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, to citizen protests against the deal, which opponents said would turn their country into a “toilet” for the world’s nuclear waste. Later, the Mongolian government said it might be difficult for it to accept this waste.

Yamada read subsequent emails between Toshiba’s president at the time, Norio Sasaki, and an official of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which said that negotiations with Mongolia should continue and that any further arrangements be made in a confidential manner. Toshiba’s public relations department confirmed the existence of the emails to Yamada but denied that Toshiba had asked the Mongolian government to receive outside nuclear waste. The negotiations, it said, had more to do with “building on the system of nuclear nonproliferation.”

Aikawa told Yamada that while ostensibly the negotiations were between the three governments, the plans for the deal were drawn up by the U.S. and Toshiba with the aim of selling nuclear power plants to emerging economies under a scheme called Comprehensive Fuel Service. According to this scheme, vendors assure potential customers that they will handle any future nuclear waste produced by power plants the customers buy, which is why Mongolia’s acceptance of such waste is so important. Due to local resistance, neither the U.S. nor Japan has anywhere to dump spent fuel, even their own.

The reason Yamada became so interested in this topic years after the fact is that in the meantime, Toshiba has been caught up in financial scandals that have brought the company to its knees, and he wanted to explore the connection between Toshiba’s nuclear energy business and its fiscal woes.

The connection itself is not a secret. Toshiba spent almost ¥600 billion to buy its share of Westinghouse, which at the time of the purchase was only worth about ¥250 billion. The extra “goodwill” money (norendai) was in anticipation of future revenues that would accrue as Toshiba expanded its nuclear energy business both in Japan and throughout the world with Westinghouse as its “trump card.” But then Fukushima happened, putting a serious damper on demand for plant construction.

The revenues Toshiba envisioned didn’t materialize, and the norendai became a huge liability it tried to hide through bookkeeping. Sasaki, his predecessor and his successor are all now being sued by Toshiba’s management for ordering improper accounting practices after Nikkei Business reported that Toshiba was violating Tokyo Stock Exchange regulations regarding the disclosure of a subsidiary’s losses.

However, at the end of December, the Financial Services Agency, in its investigation of the accounting scandal, did not find Toshiba to be at fault, but rather punished the auditing firm of Ernst & Young ShinNihon for “failure to detect” Toshiba’s improper accounting practices. In a follow-up article in the Jan. 11 issue of Aera, the reporter wondered if this arrangement didn’t smack of “conspiracy,” and an FSA representative told the magazine that the agency “suspected” as much but “could not find any evidence.” For the next three months, ShinNihon is suspended from signing any new business contracts and must pay a “surcharge” of ¥2.1 billion. Though that may sound severe, industry people told Aera that usually in such cases penalized companies are suspended from conducting business altogether.

So why didn’t the FSA accuse Toshiba of accounting fraud, especially given that it’s not uncommon for auditors to revise their findings so as not to inconvenience powerful clients? As Yamada points out, the agency didn’t even mention Westinghouse in its findings.

Perhaps the government still needs Toshiba, since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pegged Japanese growth at least partly to the export of nuclear technology. In November, the Asahi Shimbun interviewed the CEO of Westinghouse, who said his company had plans to build dozens of new reactors all over the world, “including Japan.” Abe is selling nuclear technology to Vietnam, Turkey and other countries, and in October he finalized a trade deal with Mongolia.

Ryoko Imaoka, an associate professor at Osaka University and longtime expert on Mongolia, has explained that the U.S., desperate to find a friendly country to accept nuclear waste, was pushing Japan to make a deal with Mongolia. Japan publicly downplays the nuclear part of the trade agreement and Japanese media have obliged, though Mitsubishi Corp. is already developing three new mines there. She says the country’s currently dormant uranium pits remain extremely radioactive and it’s not clear where any nuclear waste would be buried, but in any event there are Mongolians who are ready to sue to shut the whole thing down.

January 19, 2016 Posted by | ASIA, Mongolia, USA | Leave a comment

Mongolia plans to become a renewable energy hub

Mongolia eyes renewable energy as climate warms SMH June 5, 2013  Mongolia, which is banking on a mining-led investment boom to develop its economy, is aiming to turn itself into a regional renewable energy hub as it tries to fight off the pressures of global warming, the country’s president said.

“Mongolia is regarded as one of the centres of this region for wind power. We have high mountains and the Gobi. We have great potential to generate power,” president Tsakhia Elbegdorj told reporters.
“We have some ideas of how Mongolia can be Asia’s super grid for wind power and solar power, and other renewable energies. If we use all the wind power (potential) in the country, we can enhance the energy supply of China and all over Asia.”

Mongolia was chosen to host the U.N.’s World Environment Day on June 5, and at a news conference to mark the occasion, officials said the country also planned to better regulate a mining sector that is polluting an already fragile environment……..

Mongolia is suffering “more pasture degradation, permafrost thawing, and glacial melt”, Sanjaasuren Oyunm, minister of environment and green development, told Reuters.

Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme told Reuters during a visit this week that Mongolia had seen average temperatures rise 2.1 degrees Celsius (3.8 F) in the past 60 to 70 years – about three times faster than the global average.

Its high altitude and sparse vegetation in many regions made the nation vulnerable…..

Environment Minister Oyun said she was introducing new environmental regulations, including obliging companies to pay compensation for the use and consumption of non-extracted resources such as water and timber…….. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/mongolia-eyes-renewable-energy-as-climate-warms-20130605-2nqo9.html#ixzz2VZGbW8lz

June 8, 2013 Posted by | Mongolia, renewable | Leave a comment

Mongolia could meet all its energy need through renewable sources

Mongolia to Increase Renewable Energy Development, Xinhua Says http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-12/mongolia-to-increase-renewable-energy-development-xinhua-says.html By Ehren Goossens – Nov 12,  Mongolia plans to increase the amount of energy produced from renewable sources, the country’s President Tsakhia Elbegdorj said Monday, according to China ’s official Xinhua News Agency.

The country expects to produce 20 percent to 25 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable resources by 2020, Elbegdorj said at the Northeast Asia Renewable Energy Resources Cooperation Forum. He didn’t say how much renewable energy is produced now.

Mongolia has the potential to meet its entire domestic energy demand with renewable power, Elbegdorj said.

November 15, 2012 Posted by | Mongolia, renewable | Leave a comment

Wind power may transform Mongolia’s energy supply

The group has six wind-power plant projects that are due to bring 1,000 megawatts online in the country by 2020. In the U.S., that would be enough to power about 800,000 homes. In Mongolia’s economy, it would stretch much further.

Mongolia’s Renewables Belittle World’s Nuclear Supply, Bloomberg, By Yuriy Humber Jan 5, 2012 Untapped mineral riches are fueling Mongolia’s ambition to compete with Australia and Brazil in Asia. The nation’s resource-based economy grew 21 percent last quarter alone.

This largesse obscures a potential aboveground treasure also awaiting investors.

The world’s most sparsely populated nation has the potential to generate 2.6 million megawatts of wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower, based on data collected by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Mongolian National Renewable Energy Center.

That’s a fantastic figure. It’s seven times the capacity of all the world’s operable nuclear reactors combined, according to world nuclear association data. In contrast, Mongolia’s current power capacity is less than that of one large coal plant, just 878 megawatts.

That’s what Newcom Group’s acting Chief Executive Office Byambasaikhan Bayanjargal recently told investors in Hong Kong. Of that, close to 40 percent of the potential is in wind, and Bayanjargal is eager to harness it….. Continue reading

January 6, 2012 Posted by | Mongolia, renewable | Leave a comment

   

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