Fukushima's ¥8 trillion cleanup leaves foreign firms in the cold

The Japan Times

Cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear plant -- a task predicted to cost 86 times the amount earmarked for decommissioning Japan's first commercial reactor -- is the mother of all salvage jobs. Still, foreign firms with decades of experience are seeing little of the spoils. Safely dismantling the Japanese power plant, wrecked by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, will cost about ¥8 trillion ($70 billion), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Dec. 9, quadrupling the previous estimate. While a contract to help clean up the facility would be a windfall for any firm with specialized technology, the lion's share of the work has gone to local companies that designed and built most of Japan's atomic infrastructure. The bidding process for Fukushima contracts should be more open to foreigners as Japan has never finished decommissioning a commercial nuclear plant, let alone one that experienced a triple meltdown, according to Lake Barrett, an independent adviser at Japan's International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning.

Westinghouse could be sold by year's end, U.S. seen telling India

The Japan Times

NEW DELHI – The U.S. administration has told India that Westinghouse Electric Co. will emerge from bankruptcy and be sold by the year end, industry and diplomatic sources have said, raising the prospect of a Washington-supported sale or bailout for the nuclear firm. India, like other nuclear nations, has been closely watching the fate of Japanese-owned Westinghouse, which filed for Chapter 11 in March after an estimated $13 billion of cost overruns at two U.S. projects, casting a shadow over the nuclear industry. There has been debate over potential U.S. support for the reactor maker since owner Toshiba, the laptop-to-chips conglomerate, announced the blow-out at Westinghouse last year. Some form of U.S. backing or involvement, industry experts say, could avoid a Chinese or Russian buyer unpalatable to Washington, which would prefer to keep Westinghouse's advanced nuclear technology out of the hands of its foreign rivals. The White House declined comment.

U.S. energy chief Perry likely to visit Japan in June

The Japan Times

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry may visit Japan in early June to have talks with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, sources said. Their talks are expected to cover the situation of struggling electronics and machinery maker Toshiba, including the reconstruction of its troubled U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, the sources said. The Japan visit will be the first for Perry as U.S. energy secretary. Seko and Perry will have their second meeting, having met in Washington in March. The sources said Perry is also considering visiting Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station, which was heavily damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese firms in talks over alliance on nuclear power: sources

The Japan Times

Two major utilities and a pair of power plant manufacturers are considering a four-way alliance on nuclear power operations, sources said Wednesday, as the industry grapples with rising costs related to decommissioning and safety. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and Chubu Electric Power Co. are in discussions with Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. to possibly launch a joint company that would handle reactor maintenance. They are also considering jointly decommissioning obsolete reactors, the sources said. Decommissioning and safety-related costs have been rising for power providers following meltdowns at Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Tougher safety rules have been introduced in the wake of the crisis.

Dying robots and failing hope: Fukushima clean-up falters six years after tsunami

Guardian Energy

Barely a fifth of the way into their mission, the engineers monitoring the Scorpion's progress conceded defeat. With a remote-controlled snip of its cable, the latest robot sent into the bowels of one of Fukushima Daiichi's damaged reactors was cut loose, its progress stalled by lumps of fuel that overheated when the nuclear plant suffered a triple meltdown six years ago this week. As the 60cm-long Toshiba robot, equipped with a pair of cameras and sensors to gauge radiation levels was left to its fate last month, the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), attempted to play down the failure of yet another reconnaissance mission to determine the exact location and condition of the melted fuel. Even though its mission had been aborted, the utility said, "valuable information was obtained which will help us determine the methods to eventually remove fuel debris". The Scorpion mishap, two hours into an exploration that was supposed to last 10 hours, underlined the scale and difficulty of decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi – an unprecedented undertaking one expert has described as "almost beyond comprehension".