Tepco’s Plans Restart Of World’s Biggest Nuclear Plant
By Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuji Okada - Jun 27, 2012 11:30 PM CT
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), owner of the crippled Fukushima reactors, is committed to restarting another nuclear plant next year that is the world’s largest and itself was damaged in a 2007 earthquake.
Bringing the Kashiwazaki Kariwa power station online, even though it sets up the state-controlled utility for further conflicts with a nuclear-weary public, is part of “Plan A,” President Naomi Hirose, 59, said in an interview. The plan refers to a 10-year business reconstruction that handed control of the power company known as Tepco to
Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station in Kariwa Village, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
“We have no choice right now but to do our best to carry out Plan A,” Hirose said on June 18. “We don’t have a Plan B.”
Tepco’s decision runs counter to polls showing the majority of Japanese want less reliance on atomic power after meltdowns at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors last year. The radiation release and cost to the public of as much as $138 billion sparked anti-nuclear sentiment across the world. Germany decided to shut all its plants, Italy scrapped a plan to build reactors, and China, with the largest atomic-building program, imposed a temporary halt on approving projects while it reviewed safety.
In Japan, all 50 reactors, including the seven at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, have been required to pass so-called stress tests introduced to improve safety after the Fukushima disaster. Only two near the western city of Osaka have won permission to resume operations, leaving 48 offline.
“Tepco’s plan is only wishful thinking” because no more reactors are likely to be approved this year, said Tomoko Murakami, a Tokyo-based nuclear analyst at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. “Without the restart, there is not much hope to revive the company.”
Restarting the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant and raising power prices are the key planks of the plan that includes a 1 trillion yen ($12.6 billion) bailout. Delaying the restart or power price increases by more than a year may force the government to increase the bailout, Hirofumi Kawachi, a Tokyo- based analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co.
“We have to steadily carry out the first steps of the business plan,” said Hirose, who was officially approved yesterday as the utility’s new president by shareholders and the board of directors.
Those first steps are unlikely to be as steady as Hirose hopes for.
Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata prefecture, where the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant is located, has said the Fukushima nuclear accident should be fully investigated before approving the restart of the world’s biggest atomic station. Tepco said restarting one of the reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa will save it about 78 billion yen a year.
Seventy-one percent of respondents to a Mainichi newspaper poll published on June 4 objected to a speedy restart of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s reactors at Ohi. The restart was approved on June 18. In a separate poll released June 5 by the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Japanese said the country should reduce its reliance on atomic energy and 52 percent feared they or their families may have been exposed to radiation.
“It is, and should be, possible for electricity utilities not to rely on nuclear power in the long term, 30 or 40 years later,” Kazuhiko Shimokobe, Tepco’s new chairman, told reporters in Tokyo today. “But it’s difficult to think of Tepco and other utilities without nuclear power in the time span of five or 10 years while maintaining stable electricity supply.”
Shareholders of Japan’s utilities including Tepco and Kansai Electric rejected proposals to abandon or reduce their dependence on nuclear power generation at annual general meetings held across Japan yesterday. Nuclear power provided about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity prior to the Fukushima disaster.
The utility may be forced to scale down and delay power rate increases due to criticism by a government panel assessing Tepco’s request to raise tariffs by 10.28 percent from July 1, the Nikkei newspaper reported on June 21.
To gain public support, the turnaround plan calls for cutting costs by 3.65 trillion yen over 10 years. Tepco also pledged to reduce fuel costs as Japan increasingly relies on thermal power generation with reactors offline.
“As we want to buy fuels at a low price even more than our customers do, every measure to lower our fuel costs should be taken. Shale gas is one possibility,” Hirose said. “But shale gas won’t solve everything.”
Efforts to join Japanese companies in buying natural gas assets overseas, including shale gas in the U.S. and Canada, may be hindered by a lack of funds, Hirose said. Tepco’s bailout included a 1 trillion yen loan.
“One of our strong points used to be fundraising capacity,” Hirose said. “It will be critically challenging.” One option may be to acquire upstream assets with other Japanese companies and seek state financing, he said.
Tepco, state-owned Japan Oil, Gas & Metals National Corp. and their partners on June 18 agreed to jointly buy 10 percent of Chevron Corp. (CVX)’s Wheatstone field licenses and 8 percent in the processing facilities near Onslow in Western Australia state. In a preliminary agreement signed in December 2009, Tepco said it would acquire 15 percent of the licenses and 11.25 percent of the plants.
Buying upstream assets “is certainly an effective option. I have no doubt that it is one of the solutions” to lower fuel costs, Hirose said.
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Ex-Soros Adviser Fujimaki Says Japan To Probably Default By 2017
By Mariko Ishikawa and Yumi Ikeda - Jun 14, 2012 7:29 PM CT
Investors should buy assets in U.S. dollars and other currencies of strong developed nations because Japan may default within five years, said Takeshi Fujimaki, former adviser to billionaire investor George Soros.
“Japan is likely to default before Europe does, which could be in the next five years,” the president of Fujimaki Japan, an investment advising company in Tokyo, said in an interview yesterday. Japanese should hold foreign-currency products, such as those denominated in the greenback, Swiss franc, sterling, Australian and Canadian dollars, Fujimaki said.
Should the Japanese government default, the yen may weaken to 400-500 per dollar, and the yields on benchmark 10-year bonds could surge above 80 percent, according to Fujimaki. “I’m buying dollars in case of an emergency,” he said.
The yen fell 0.2 percent to 79.48 per dollar as of 9:14 a.m. in Tokyo from its close in New York yesterday. The currency touched the post war high of 75.35 per dollar on Oct. 31 and has averaged about 103 over the past decade. Japan’s 10-year yields were little changed yesterday at 0.86 percent. Rates on June 4 dropped to 0.79 percent, the lowest since June 2003.
Five-year credit-default swaps that insure Japan’s debt from nonpayment were at 90.9 basis points yesterday, up from a seven-month low of 90.1 on March 27, according to CME Group Inc.’s CMA. The contracts pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities if a borrower fails to meet its debt agreements. A drop signals improving perceptions of creditworthiness, while an increase suggests the opposite.
Japan’s public borrowings, the world’s biggest, will balloon to 245.6 percent of its annual economic output in 2014, up from 67.3 percent in 1984, an estimate by the International Monetary Fund shows. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is struggling to gather support for his plan to double the 5 percent sales tax by 2015 to help reduce debt.
“The yen and the JGB market are in a bubble,” Fujimaki said. “With the gigantic debt Japan has accumulated, a thin needle, or even a gentle breeze may pop this. Events in Europe can possibly trigger this to blow up.”
Greeks vote in a general election on June 17 after balloting in May failed to produce a coalition government. The result may determine whether Greece abides by spending reductions imposed upon it to receive two international bailouts and stay in the euro. The euro currency bloc may break up in the next 5 to 10 years, Fujimaki said.
“There’s no way out of Japan’s crisis,” Fujimaki said. “The only option left for Japan is either default or print money into hyper-inflation.”
Fujimaki’s agreement with Soros Fund Management, once the world’s biggest hedge fund group, ended in October 2000. He has since written a book and lectured at Waseda University and Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. He was born in 1950.
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Pulling Plug On Greece Sells In German Town Opposing Merkel Plan
By Leon Mangasarian - Jun 11, 2012 5:01 PM CT
In the German town of Hassloch, sandwiched between vineyards and farms growing lettuce and asparagus, people have had enough of the debt crisis.
“We can’t go on funding the Greeks, they’re beyond help,” Angelika Hoerner, 50, said as she served customers from behind a glass counter of her family’s butcher shop in the town of 21,000 in western Rhineland-Palatinate state. “It’s better to have an end with horror than horror without an end.”
The mood in Hassloch matters because it’s in an election district that voted for the winning chancellor’s party in six of the past eight German elections, including the backing of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in 2005 and 2009.
Of 20 people interviewed in Hassloch from May 30 to June 1 only one said European Union solidarity meant it was worth fighting to keep Greece in the euro.
While nationwide polls show Germans are swinging against helping their poorer southern euro partner, opinions in Hassloch underscore a warning for Chancellor Angela Merkel as Greeks prepare for a second shot at electing a government on June 17.
The town has been used since 1985 by market-research company GfK SE as a miniature Germany to test products ranging from Unilever NV (UNA)’s Dove soap to Ferrero Spa Rondnoir chocolates before they are rolled out across the country. About 3,400 households have a GfK card that residents show at stores to register their purchases.
“Nothing that succeeds in Hassloch has flopped in the rest of Germany,” Bettina Bartholomeyzik, 52, GfK’s Hassloch manager, said in an interview. “It’s an ideal test site because most Germans don’t live in big cities.”
The demographics of Hassloch, a town of well-kept single- family homes where people leave bicycles unlocked, are in Germany what Peoria, Illinois, is for U.S. politicians and marketing executives who ask whether their policies, products and movies will “play in Peoria?”
The mood in Hassloch also matters because it’s in an election district that voted for the winning chancellor’s party in six of the past eight German elections, including the backing of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in 2005 and 2009. Germany holds elections next year.
The “nein” to giving more aid to Greece comes as Merkel finds herself increasingly isolated in Europe over her demands for austerity and her rejection of euro-region bonds. As Greece teeters on the verge of insolvency and Spain and Italy move to the frontline of the crisis, Merkel hasn’t ruled out a limited euro-region debt sharing under a European redemption fund.
On June 9, Spain became the fourth euro member to seek a bailout since the start of the debt crisis more than two years ago with a request for as much as 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to rescue its banks.
National polls show increasing German opposition to keeping Greece in the euro. Sixty percent of Germans want Greece to exit the single currency, up from 49 percent in November, a ZDF television survey on May 25 showed. The poll showed 79 percent opposed to euro bonds that would reduce Greek borrowing costs. Merkel said June 2 that she would “under no circumstances” agree to Germany-backed euro bonds.
Hassloch Mayor Hans-Ulrich Ihlenfeld said his constituents “just won’t accept” giving more money to Greece.
Germany is the biggest contributor to the euro-region bailouts and its guarantee commitments to the European Financial Stability Facility amount to about 211 billion euros, or 27 percent of the total.
“It would be better if Greece left the euro,” Ihlenfeld, 49, a member of Merkel’s CDU party, said in an interview in the town hall across from an 18th-century church topped with a golden weathervane. “Their structures are too dilapidated and their public administration is too corrupt.”
Residents, including Hoerner in the butcher shop, are angry about how Germany is depicted as still having to pay for the Nazis actions in World War II, while others are concerned about what happens to the money once it arrives in Athens.
“These terrible things happened 70 years ago,” she said. “At some point, it’s over and you can’t keep holding the next generations responsible.”
Of 20 people interviewed in Hassloch from May 30 to June 1 only one said European Union solidarity meant it was worth fighting to keep Greece in the euro.
Most people believe the euro would survive beyond the departure of Greece, whose economy is shrinking for a fifth straight year and accounts for less than 2.5 percent of the 17- nation currency group’s gross domestic product. Spain and Italy make up a combined 29 percent of the region’s output, according to data from the European Commission.
“Greece’s economy is only a tiny part of the euro area,” Cristina Amarghioalie, 28, an employee at the “Sun for Fun” tanning center in Hassloch, said in an interview. “I don’t think Greece leaving would destroy the euro. Greece has been helped enough. Spain and Italy are more important.”
Lars Engisch, an 18-year-old 11th grade student, agreed.
“The euro won’t break up if Greece leaves,” he said as he delivered newspapers. “We don’t even know what happens to money that already goes to Greece.”
Bernd Ruckdeschel, 74, a retired BASF SE employee who now heads Hassloch’s local museum, said Greek “corruption and non- payment of taxes” has caused the crisis. “Germany shouldn’t do anything more for Greece. Merkel is doing the right thing.”
Greece won a second bailout this year from the EU and International Monetary Fund taking the total rescue package to 240 billion euros since 2010. Political parties in Greece are now split between sticking to terms of the loans by reducing spending, or reneging on the agreement while keeping the euro.
Some in Hassloch have sympathy with that argument. Katrin Wagner, 30, public relations head of the town’s Holiday Park Plopsa, which attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year to rides such as the “Expedition GeForce” roller-coaster, said that while she’s opposed to euro bonds she worries that too much emphasis on austerity will harm the economy.
“We shouldn’t let the euro break up,” she said as riders shrieked in the background. “If Greece goes, where does it stop? Spain and Portugal are at the tipping point.”
Ihlenfeld, Hassloch’s mayor, said getting Greece out of the euro might give Merk
el leeway to offer more German assistance to other struggling euro bloc members.
There would be “more understanding for helping Spain and Portugal if Greece left,” he said.
Hassloch, surrounded by fields with cackling pheasants and a pine and oak forest with cuckoos, built its economy on farming and many houses have a small barn in the backyard.
As many as 3,000 people commute from Hassloch to jobs, mainly at BASF (BAS), the world’s biggest chemical company, in Ludwigshafen almost 16 miles (25 kilometers) away, Ihlenfeld said. The town’s jobless rate stands at about 6 percent, below the national average of 6.7 percent, the lowest in two decades.
Civic duty is taken seriously in Hassloch where residents sweep the streets in front of their homes, using sharp-pronged hoes to remove moss and weeds from between the sidewalk cracks. The public toilet in the town center was immaculately clean with glistening steel fittings.
“Hassloch reflects Germany because it’s rural yet close enough to big cities to combine an urban lifestyle,” Julia Peschl, 28, a research consultant at GfK headquarters in Nuremberg, said by telephone. “The per capita purchasing power of its residents is almost exactly the German average.”
Residents are worried about inflation and the value of the euro, which has fallen 4 percent against the dollar this year. Locals are buying property or building more to have something to show for their euros, Ihlenfeld said.
Friedrich Lichtenscheid, a retiree, said the town’s farmers are the lucky ones because they own land.
“That’s better than holding euros,” Lichtenscheid said, standing in the courtyard of a half-timbered mill from 1765 that has been converted into a hotel and restaurant. He was celebrating his 85th birthday. “I would have preferred to keep the D-mark,” he said, referring to the deutsche mark.
The community had a balanced budget until 2008 and now has a 2.8 million-euro deficit. The mayor wants to cut spending by 500,000 euros next year by trimming the town’s shuttle taxi service and replacing some paid positions with volunteers.
“Everybody has to save money,” Ihlenfeld said in the meeting room of his town hall. “Not just Greece.”
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Jun 1, 2012, 04.11PM IST
Nuclear Power Corporation of India|NTPC|NPCIL|Indian Oil Corporation|Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd|atomic|Alstom
CHENNAI: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) will launch 16 reactors at an outlay of Rs 2.3 trillion ($40 billion) during the 12th Plan period (2012-17), a top official of the atomic power operator said.
"We have to launch eight 700 MW pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) and eight light water reactors (LWRs) involving a total outlay of Rs 230,000 crore (Rs 2.3 trillion). The LWRs will be from foreign companies," S K Jain, who retired Thursday as NPCIL chairman and managing director, said in an interview.
By Bloomberg News - Jun 1, 2012 1:20 AM CT
China, planning to build more nuclear reactors than any other country, approved a safety framework that may help end a ban on approving new atomic plants imposed after last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan.
The State Council, or Cabinet, approved “in principle” the proposed plan on nuclear safety for the five-year period ending 2015 and long-term targets for 2020, the government said on its website yesterday. The report didn’t specify when approvals for new plants would resume or mention capacity goals.
The move follows a report yesterday that Japan is closer to resuming nuclear power generation after an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of atomic energy projects. Chinese nuclear power equipment makers, including Shanghai Electric Group Co., Dongfang Electric Corp. and Harbin Electric Co., had their long- term contracts frozen after the ban.
“Now that the key barrier has been cleared, we expect new projects to be approved soon,” Patrick Dai, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. in Hong Kong, said in an e-mail. Shanghai Electric, Dongfang Electric and Harbin Electric may get contracts for 5 gigawatts of capacity this year, worth more than 50 billion yuan ($7.9 billion), he said.
China, which started its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building 25 reactors on the mainland and plans to add another 27, according to data from the World Nuclear Association.
The quality of the country’s nuclear industry, including reactor design, manufacturing, construction and operations, is “under control,” according to the government report. China’s nuclear safety standards match the International Atomic Energy Agency’s specifications, it said.
Some atomic plants didn’t meet new requirements for flood control and some had “weak” capabilities in evaluating and dealing with tsunami-related problems, according to the report. A few civil experimental reactors and fuel-cycle facilities fell short of new earthquake standards, it said. Corrective measures have been taken, the government said.
A nationwide inspection of China’s nuclear plants started after the Fukushima accident and lasted more than nine months, according to the report. Checks were carried out at 41 reactors that were operational or being built and three that were due to start construction, it said.
The government will seek the public’s opinion on the approved proposal on nuclear safety and development, according to the report.
The safety plan was “the key hurdle before the restart of new nuclear project approvals,” Guo Shou, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Barclays Plc, said by e-mail. “There is still no definite timeline of the actual restart, but we believe the earlier expectation of a first-half restart is still on track.”
Guo estimates the value of orders this year at 10 billion to 15 billion yuan.
Chinese power-equipment companies expect at least four new projects to go forward in 2012, though there are more to go, depending on the speed of approvals, Guo said. “Nine projects were in line to be approved in 2011 prior to the Fukushima incident,” he said.
China may have 70 gigawatts of installed nuclear power capacity and 30 gigawatts under construction by the end of the decade, Xu Yuming, the vice secretary-general of the China Nuclear Energy Association, which advises the government, said May 17. The country may have 200 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2030, he said.
Japan may approve the restart of two reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co. as early as next week, the Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday, without saying where it got the information. The government wants the units fully operational before power demand peaks in mid-July, according to the report.
Japan is without an operating nuclear reactor for the first time since May 1970, with all its atomic plants idled for maintenance or additional safety checks. Nuclear power provided 30 percent of the country’s electricity prior to the quake.
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Gross Says Avoid Europe Until Private Solution: Tom Keene
By John Detrixhe and Tom Keene - Jun 1, 2012 9:41 AM CT
Pacific Investment Management Co.’s Bill Gross said investors should avoid Europe until credit begins flowing again from the private sector as government solutions aren’t enough to stem the region’s debt crisis.
“We would suggest at Pimco avoiding the entire euro zone until they can come up with some type of solution which involves the private sector,” Gross, manager of the world’s biggest bond fund, said in a radio interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene.
“What does the private sector mean? It means those institutions outside of euro land. It does mean Pimco, it does mean China, it does mean those private institutions that are willing to take a chance again in terms of credit. Until you bring them back then no solution is really going to be possible.”
Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of Pimco, poses for a photograph in New York in 2011. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been besieged this week by critics for letting the euro crisis smolder, with the leaders of Italy and the European Central Bank demanding bolder steps to stabilize the 17-nation economy. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and ECB President Mario Draghi pushed Germany to give up its opposition to direct euro-area aid for struggling banks.
Yields on Treasuries may continue to decline beyond record lows even though the securities are overvalued because the U.S. remains the world’s refuge from turmoil, Gross said.
U.S. government debt rallied today, pushing 30-year bond yields to a record low, after the economy added fewer jobs in May than economists forecast, indicating the worsening European sovereign-debt crisis may restrain U.S. growth. Treasury 10-year note yields tumbled to record lows for a third day, falling to as low as 1.44 percent.
Yields reflect the “very weak economic outlook,” that central banks may seek more monetary easing and “a huge flight quality,” Pimco Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El-Erian, said during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop” with Betty Liu.
“When people see this and are surprised by it, the natural human movement is to go to where there is safety,” El-Erian said. “You take the prices of these assets to ridiculous levels and that’s what we’re seeing today.”
Financial markets offered a snapshot of Europe’s stresses after more than two years of crisis, with the euro close to its weakest in two years against the dollar. German two-year note yields fell below zero today as investors paid for shelter from the market mayhem afflicting Italy and Spain.
Investors should favor debt of nations such as the U.S., Mexico and Brazil, and emphasize intermediate maturities over the next few years, Gross said in his monthly investment outlook posted yesterday on the Newport Beach, California-based company’s website. Equity investors should seek companies that produce stable cash flow and that are exposed to high growth markets.
Public-sector solutions to resolve the Europe’s debt crisis from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (PTTRX) and the ECB are “merely bodies exchanging cards in a game of old maid,” Gross said.
“Sooner or later someone will go out of the game, perhaps Greece, and the maid will be exposed,” he said.
Greece, which failed to form a government when a party opposed to the nation’s international bailout won more seats than forecast, has set an election this month that’s shaping up as a ballot on whether the country should remain in the euro.
“It’s increasingly inevitable that Greece will exit” the euro, El-Erian reiterated during the televised interview.
“The only question is how disorderly is it?” El-Erian said. “Europe hasn’t been to put the firewalls and most importantly hasn’t been able to break the link between weak banks and weak sovereigns.”
The $259 billion Total Return Fund run by Gross beat 99 percent of its competitors this year with a 5.27 percent return. Pimco, a unit of the Munich-based insurer Allianz SE, managed $1.35 trillion of assets as of September.
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