2017年3月30日 星期四

Huge nuclear cost overruns push Toshiba's Westinghouse into bankruptcy

Huge nuclear cost overruns push Toshiba's Westinghouse into bankruptcy

By Tom HalsMakiko Yamazaki and Tim Kelly | WILMINGTON, DEL./TOKYO
Westinghouse Electric Co, a unit of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, hit by billions of dollars of cost overruns at four nuclear reactors under construction in the U.S. Southeast.
The bankruptcy casts doubt on the future of the first new U.S. nuclear power plants in three decades, which were scheduled to begin producing power as soon as this week, but are now years behind schedule.
The four reactors are part of two projects known as V.C. Summer in South Carolina, which is majority owned by SCANA Corp, and Vogtle in Georgia, which is owned by a group of utilities led by Southern Co.
Costs for the projects have soared due to increased safety demands by U.S. regulators, and also due to significantly higher-than-anticipated costs for labor, equipment and components.
Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse said it hopes to use bankruptcy to isolate and reorganize around its "very profitable" nuclear fuel and power plant servicing businesses from its money-losing construction operation.
Westinghouse said in a court filing it has secured $800 million in financing from Apollo Investment Corp, an affiliate of Apollo Global Management, to fund its core businesses during its reorganization.
For Toshiba, the filing will help keep the crisis-hit parent company afloat as it lines up buyers for its memory chip business, which could fetch $2 billion. Toshiba said Westinghouse-related liabilities totalled $9.8 billion as of December.
Toshiba said it would guarantee up to $200 million of the financing for Westinghouse. Toshiba shares closed up 2.2 percent but have lost half their value since the nuclear problems surfaced late last year.
The Apollo loan needs court approval and is expected to carry Westinghouse for a year, people familiar with the matter said. The funds would support the company's global operations, including its healthier services and maintenance businesses, and pay for construction workers on site in Georgia and South Carolina, the people said.
However, the money cannot be used to repay the liabilities stemming from cost overruns and delays at the projects, the people said.

The Vogtle Unit 3 and 4 site, being constructed by primary contactor Westinghouse, a business unit of Toshiba, near Waynesboro, Georgia, U.S. is seen in an aerial photo taken February 2017. Georgia Power/Handout via REUTERS
SCANA told investors on a conference call on Wednesday that 5,000 workers would continue working on its South Carolina site for 30 days while the company while it weighed options.
"Our preferred option is to finish the plants. The least preferred option is abandonment,” said SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh.
Southern Co said in a statement it would hold Westinghouse and Toshiba accountable for its contract.
States regulators have approved costs of around $14 billion for each project but Morgan Stanley has estimated the final bill of around $22 billion for the South Carolina project and around $19 billion for the Georgia plant.
Westinghouse’s nuclear services business is expected to continue to perform profitably over the course of the bankruptcy and eventually be sold by Toshiba, people familiar with the matter said. They cautioned that the sale process will likely be highly complex and litigious.
The bankruptcy could embroil the U.S. and Japanese governments, given the scale of the collapse and the $8.3 billion in U.S. government loan guarantees that were provided to help finance the reactors.
A U.S. Department of Energy spokeswoman said the agency expects the parties to honor their commitments.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was inspecting the sites to ensure the facilities met the requirements of the licenses that were issued to units of Southern and SCANA.
Shares of SCANA were down 0.8 percent at $65.64 and Southern Co fell 0.4 percent to $49.90 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
When regulators in Georgia and South Carolina approved the construction of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors in 2009, it was meant to be the start of renewed push to develop U.S. nuclear power.
However, a flood of cheap natural gas from shale, the lack of U.S. legislation to curb carbon emissions and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan dampened enthusiasm for nuclear power.
Toshiba had acquired Westinghouse in 2006 for $5.4 billion. It expected to build dozens of its new AP1000 reactors - which were hailed as safer, quicker to construct and more compact - creating a pipeline of work for its maintenance division.
Toshiba has said it expects to book a net loss of 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) for the fiscal year that ends Friday, one of the biggest annual losses in Japanese corporate history. Toshiba had earlier forecast a loss of 390 billion.
Toshiba will close the first round of bids for its chip business - the world's second-biggest NAND chip producer - on Wednesday. A source with knowledge of the issue said that about 10 potential bidders had shown interest, including Western Digital Corp which operates a Japanese chip plant with Toshiba, rival Micron Technology Inc, South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Inc and financial investors. Tsunakawa said offers for the unit are likely to allow Toshiba to maintain shareholder equity. Toshiba believes the unit will be worth at least 2 trillion yen ($18 billion), he added.
The government-backed Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, and Development Bank of Japan are expected to enter later bidding rounds as part of a consortium, sources said.
A separate source said that Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer, is expected to place an offer which is likely to be the highest bid. Other sources have said the Japanese government is likely to block a sale to Foxconn due to its deep ties with China.
(Additional reporting by Kentaro Hamada, Yoshiyasu Shida, Taiga Uranaka, Hitoshi Ishida and Sam Nussey in Tokyo, Scott DiSavino and Jessica DiNapoli in New York, Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware)

2017年3月29日 星期三

"Ieji" 家路: Japanese film "Homeland" tiptoes into Fukushima nuclear debate 2014


Homeland (Ieji) - AsianWiki

Movie: Homeland (English title) / The Way Home (literal title); Romaji: Ieji; Japanese: 家路 ... Filmingtook place June, 2013 in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

Japanese film "Homeland" tiptoes into Fukushima nuclear debate

By Ruairidh Villar and Elaine Lies | TOKYO

A Japanese farming family is forced from their home by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, living in cramped temporary housing under stress as they wait for permission to return to land worked by their ancestors for generations.

That is the all-too-real backdrop of "Homeland", the first Japanese mass-market film set in Fukushima since the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years made the area's name infamous.

Shown at the recent Berlin Film Festival, the movie - called "Ieji" ("The Road Home") in Japanese - features some scenes shot in areas once declared no-go zones by the government due to high radiation levels.

Despite an intense debate about whether to restart the rest of Japan's nuclear reactors that were idled after the disaster, director Nao Kubota said he opted to tell a human story.

"I wanted to make a film that would be relevant for a long time to come, that people could watch in 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years and see that this sort of claustrophobic situation came about," he said.

"That's what I want everyone to feel - and it's for that reason that it's not anti-nuclear."

On March 11, 2011, a massive offshore earthquake sent tsunami tearing through villages in northeastern Japan, setting off meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant that irradiated a wide swath of countryside and forced more than 150,000 people from their homes.

"Homeland", released in Japan nearly three years after the disaster, centers on long-estranged son Jiro, who secretly moves into the exclusion zone to reclaim the family farm.

Much is made of the difference between the temporary housing - with families who owned sprawling farmhouses now living in small units in a long line - and the open areas in the exclusion zone where abandoned cows roamed and empty streets were full of weeds.

"The birds were singing and we felt like we were intruding. But despite the beauty, everything was frozen in time," said Kubota, who has a background in documentaries.

"It was beautiful but no one could live there. In a way, there was something menacing. You couldn't smell it, the colors hadn't changed, and you couldn't see or physically feel it. There's that sort of fear."


This contrast may have helped Kubota get across his message without making it too obvious, said film critic Yuichi Maeda.

"Taking a camera into the no-go zone and filming there really shows the claw marks of the nuclear accident," Maeda said. "He may say he's not anti-nuclear but after seeing the film I think he actually is."

The touchiness of the nuclear issue tends to cause backers to shun anything too critical. Even stronger reasons to tread softly are that film revenues are falling in Japan and viewers are averse to movies with too heavy a political line.

Other directors have faced a similar dilemma in dealing with Fukushima. One, Sion Sono, got around it by setting his 2012 movie "Land of Hope" in an unspecified future and the fictional Nagashima prefecture.

"The moment I told (my usual investors) that this was a film about nuclear power, they told me it was just too taboo," Sono said.

"In the end we just had to cobble together money to make it, including from overseas," he said. "People don't want to think about the nuclear issue."
But Kubota's "Homeland" - however subtle its message - has struck a nerve with at least some viewers.
"Prime Minister Abe is plugging nuclear power as though nothing happened in Fukushima," said Takashi Nakamura, 68. "The movie made me feel there's something wrong with that."
(Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

2017年3月26日 星期日

Tokyo: A Biography, by Stephen Mansfield

2017年3月25日 星期六



TRAD.CN.RFI.FR|作者:RFI 華語 - 法國國際廣播電台

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對國內的自殺原因,專家們進行了各種各樣的分析,他們指出,經濟蕭條導致經營不佳和失業,勞動條件惡化,工作過於繁重,以及工作單位中複雜的人際關係等,年富力強的一代人中自殺者的增加,與這些都不無關係。而中老年中的自殺,還牽涉到健康問題、生活窘困、長年看護老弱病人帶來的身心疲勞、孤獨等因素。此外,少年兒童的自殺背後,則多存在著「 校園欺凌」的問題。

「自殺對策」, 需進一步加強


2017年3月23日 星期四

英科学雑誌Nature別冊 日本の科学研究の失速を指摘


Principal of scandal-hit Osaka school says he got donation from Akie Abe

Principal of scandal-hit Osaka school says he got donation from Akie Abe

The embattled head of an Osaka school operator at the center of a murky real estate deal gave sworn testimony in the Diet on Thursday that he received a ¥1 ...

Nikkei Asian Review
Testimony under oath: "She told her aide to leave and when we were alone, she handed me an envelope with 1 million yen"
TOKYO -- In a sworn testimony to the Japanese Diet on Thursday, Yasunori Kagoike described in colorful detail how he received cash.