Tokyo Electric Power received agreement from Japan’s government for $8.9bn of aid to support compensation payments after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, says Bloomberg. The deal averts the risk of having its stock listing removed. Yukio Edano, Japan’s trade and industry minister, agreed to the request at a meeting today in the capital with company president Toshio Nishizawa. The company said it will announce its earnings on Monday at 4:30pm, before Tuesday’s deadline, after they were delayed while the company pushed for approval of the government aid. Shares in Tepco rose as much as 8 per cent in Tokyo on Monday but were unchanged by early afternoon.
Tokyo Electric Power shares surged after a report said the company will accept 1tn yen ($13bn) as part of an effective government takeover to save it from collapse after the Fukushima disaster, reports Bloomberg. The Yomiuri newspaper, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, said on Thursday the utility is in talks with the government-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund on the size of the stake it will take. Tepco wants to keep the fund’s voting rights below 50 percent by using preferred shares while the government aims to obtain more than two-thirds, the Yomiuri said. Tepco shares rose as much as 12 per cent by mid-morning in Tokyo. Reuters also cited a source as saying Tepco would agree to be effectively nationalised.
Tokyo Electric Power fell as much as 12 per cent after the Nikkei newspaper said the government may buy common shares to take control of the utility, reports Bloomberg. The stock fell to 153 yen, the lowest intra-day price since June 9 last year. It traded at 170 yen at 10:52am on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Tepco has dropped 92 per cent since the day before the March 11 quake and tsunami wrecked its Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, causing radiation leaks and mass evacuations.
Tokyo Electric Power detected signs of nuclear fission at its crippled Fukushima atomic power plant, Bloomberg reports. Officials said no increase in radiation was found at the site and the situation is under control. Tepco began spraying boric acid on the No. 2 reactor in the early hours of Wednesday to prevent accidental chain reactions, according to an emailed statement. The detection of xenon, which is associated with nuclear fission, was confirmed on Wednesday by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the regulator said. “Given the signs, it’s certain that fission is occurring,” said Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tepco, adding that there had been no large-scale or sustained criticality and no increase in radiation, he said.
Plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK are expected to receive a green light today from the final report on lessons from the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the FT reports. The government asked Dr Mike Weightman, head of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, to examine the accident in Japan after the reactors at Fukushima were struck by an earthquake and a tsunami on March 11. The aim was to identify any implications for Britain’s ambition to construct up to 12 new reactors at eight identified sites. Mr Weightman released his interim findings in May, containing 26 recommendations for the British nuclear industry. But his conclusions did not impose any significant additional constraints on the programme to construct new reactors. Mr Weightman’s final report is expected to confirm this conclusion.
The Japanese government moved to contain a spreading scare over radiation-contaminated beef by banning all shipments of cattle from Fukushima prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power’s stricken nuclear power plant, reports the FT. The decision comes amid growing concerns over the safety of Fukushima beef after it was found that beef from more than 500 cattle, which had been fed rice straw contaminated with high levels of radioactive caesium, had been shipped to stores throughout Japan. Inspections by local authorities found that some of the beef contained radioactive caesium that was eight times the government-designated limit, while Fukushima officials said on Tuesday they detected levels in straw used at some farms that exceed official limits. The contaminated beef is the latest health scare to emerge from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was severely damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
A leading contender to replace Naoto Kan as Japan’s prime minister has called for the country to phase out nuclear power over the next two decades. Seiji Maehara, one of the most popular figures in the ruling Democratic party, told the FT in an interview that construction of new nuclear reactors should “basically be stopped” following the crisis at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant. A Japanese retreat from atomic power would have far-reaching implications for domestic utilities and companies such as Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which are seeking to sell nuclear technology overseas. Mr Maehara was vague about plans for nuclear plants that are under construction, but his raising of the issue could put it at the centre of any election to replace Mr Kan.
Japanese industrial output recorded its second-biggest rise ever in May, Reuters reports, as manufacturing was revived after the devastating disasters of March. Industrial output rose 5.7 percent in May, compared to Reuters’ median market forecast for a 5.5 per cent increase and a gain of just 1.6 per cent in April. Although the figures raised hope of the economy emerging from the post-disaster slump, electricity shortages over summer mean smaller gains are likely to be seen in the coming months.
Japan’s government is considering a plan to spend about ¥230bn on aid for Tokyo Electric Power and radiation monitoring in its planned extra budget, Bloomberg reports. The government has yet to release details of the 2,000bn yen supplementary budget, but a draft prepared by the finance ministry proposes the nuclear aid, using 1,8oobn yen in tax revenue left over from the previous fiscal year to help fund the package. Meanwhile, Naoto Kan, Japan’s embattled prime minister, has made clear he does not plan to step down before winning Diet approval for a special disaster budget, a law promoting renewable energy and a deficit financing bill, reports the FT. Mr Kan set the first clear conditions for his departure as he unveiled a mini-cabinet reshuffle aimed at strengthening efforts to cope with the huge tsunami that hit north east Japan on March 11 and the resulting crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Investors have another event to fear, reports the FT: a downgrade of Tokyo Electric Power Company by Japanese ratings agencies. Such a move could have huge implications for Japan’s corporate bond markets, leading to a forced selling by domestic investors which in turn could hurt the ability of the electricity utilities sector to raise funds. The biggest holders of Tepco bonds, Japanese institutional investors, are convinced the company will be rescued by the Japanese government but there are questions over how long the process will take. Meanwhile Moody’s cut Tepco’s debt rating four notches to junk status as costs related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster grow, Bloomberg reports, and said the ranking may be reduced further.
Japan has unveiled a rescue scheme for Tokyo Electric Power to ensure the utility can fund compensation for victims of the crisis at its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and avoid financial collapse, the FT says. The package does not set a limit on the amount of public financial support available to Tepco. A state-backed vehicle will buy preference shares in Tepco, financed by special bonds issued by the government and some contributions from the nuclear industry. Japan will also guarantee bank loans to Tepco, in return for controls on the utility’s management and a programme of asset sales.
Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has triggered a sharp increase in worry across the European Union about the safety of nuclear power, according to a new Harris poll commissioned by the Financial Times. Nonetheless, the Harris poll found that – with the exception of Germany – citizens were broadly confident about the management of nuclear plants in their own country. Harris also revealed that Europeans were nervous about the prospect of a long-term military mission in Libya, and have little appetite to intervene on behalf of civilians elsewhere in the region.
Given the scale of the original reaction to troubles at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, it’s interesting to see the degree to which uranium ore prices have stabilized since March. Especially since the crisis itself is doing anything but.
Indeed, via RBC Capital markets on Wednesday: Read more
Japan raised its assessment of the continuing crisis at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station on Tuesday, putting it on a par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union, the FT reports. Japanese authorities said that the two-notch increase from five to seven – the highest level on the International Atomic Energy Agency scale – did not signal new dangers or setbacks at the plant. Rather, they said, it reflected the first comprehensive contamination estimate since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the crisis. The reassessment marks only the second time in the six-decade history of commercial nuclear power that an accident received the worst rating on the IAEA scale. It will, however, be weeks or months before engineers can cool the station’s overheated uranium fuel to safe levels – a precondition for stopping radiation leaks altogether. FT Alphaville gives its view from Tokyo.
Japanese nuclear technicians plan to release 10,000 tonnes of moderately radioactive water into the sea from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station to create room to store more highly contaminated water building up under the crippled plant, reports the FT. A manager at Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the station’s operator, broke into tears while announcing the emergency measure on Monday, and apologised for the “additional hardship” being placed on communities near the plant, 240km north of Tokyo.
The owner of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan will review all its data on radiation levels recorded at the site, amid confusion over how much radioactive material has flowed into seawater around the plant, the WSJ reports. Confusion also reigns over whether the Japanese government will nationalise or break up Tokyo Electric Power, with compensation claims on the company so far yet to be assessed, FT Alphaville says. Officials hope to prevent conditions at the plant from further deterioration within weeks, but caution that decommissioning will take years, reports the FT.
Engineers estimate that the Fukushima plant’s four stricken nuclear reactors will require three decades and $12bn to decommission, says Bloomberg. Shares in the plant owner, Tokyo Electric Power, plunged another 17 per cent overnight as the company revealed its CEO is now hospitalised, and speculation continued that government will nationalise it, the FT reports. Tepco’s stock is now at its lowest in five decades. The Japanese nuclear safety agency said on Wednesday that radioactive iodine levels in the sea outside the plant are now 3,355 times the legal limit, Reuters reports. Controlling leaks from the plant could take many months.
Plutonium has been detected in soil samples taken around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, complicating radioactive clean-up even further, the WSJ says. A government spokesman said that the levels of plutonium were too low to pose a serious risk, adding that the discovery reinforced suspicions that one or more of the reactor cores had experienced partial meltdown. Plutonium-239 is highly dangerous, has a half-life of more than 25,000 years, and was present in the plant either in spent fuel rods or Reactor No 3, FT Alphaville has previously pointed out. For the first time, the Japanese government has openly considered nationalising the plant’s operator, Reuters reports.
Efforts to repair cooling systems at two of the Fukushima nuclear plant’s stricken reactors are being delayed by the need to drain radioactive water from the floors, the FT says. Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s owner, said it did not know why the water had such high radiation levels. But a government official said that the levels likely came from fuel rods that had partially melted down and come into contact with water coolling the reactor, reports Bloomberg. Tepco announced on Monday that radioactive water had now been found outside reactor buildings as well, Reuters reported on Monday.
In our occasional series on the impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami on Japan-focused investors, here’s an intriguing tale of Philip Jabre’s $300m blunder.
It’s rare to hear such admissions — let alone explanations — from the mouth of the former star trader at GLG. And it kind of makes us wonder why anyone, having made such a colossal miscalculation, would want to talk about it. Read more
Japan’s nuclear regulator said one reactor core at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant may be cracked and leaking radiation, reports Bloomberg. “It’s very possible that there has been some kind of leak at the No. 3 reactor,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman at the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in Tokyo on Friday. While radioactive water at the unit most likely escaped from the reactor core, it also could have originated from spent fuel pools stored atop the reactor, he said. Reuters, meanwhile, reports that three more Japanese firms have diverted liquefied natural gas to Tokyo Electric, the operator of the plant, as it becomes increasingly reliant on thermal output to meet the region’s growing electric power needs.
The above is a presentation from a representative of Tokyo Electric Power on the subject of spent fuel storage at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In November 2010, it was delivered to the IAEA.
In March 2011, it understandably went viral. Read more
Tokyo Electric Power will be made to compensate farmers near its radiation-leaking nuclear power station for losses related to a widening ban on the sale of agricultural products from the area, Japan’s government has said. The FT reports that in the first direct reference by a high-ranking government official to reparations by Tepco for victims of the world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century, Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary, said the state would “have Tepco take responsibility”. But he added that if the company is unable to compensate people adequately, “then by law the government will step in and guarantee the claims”. The cost of cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, compensating victims and buying extra coal, gas and oil to make up for lost nuclear capacity is certain to be in the billions of dollars.
European bourses followed Asian peers higher as signs of progress at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan counteracted concerns over the west’s involvement in Libya and a subsequent jump in oil prices, reports the FT’s global markets overview. The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 1 per cent and London’s FTSE 100 was gaining 1.1 per cent, with banks and cyclicals making good headway. Germany’s Dax index was up 2 per cent after Deutsche Telekom soared 16 per cent at the open following its $39bn sale of T-Mobile USA to AT&T. A more optimistic mood in the markets was reducing the need for perceived havens such as Treasuries, where yields were sharply higher. The FTSE All-World equity index was up 0.3 per cent and US stock futures were higher by 1.1 per cent. A rally for many riskier assets suggested that investors were placing greater weight on an improving situation at Fukushima than the continued tensions in Libya and across the Middle East. Tokyo’s stock market was closed for a national holiday, but the yen was still trading and the Japanese authorities will be pleased to see that the currency has stabilised above the Y80 mark to the dollar following last week’s intervention by G7 central banks.
“Let them eat (radioactive) spinach….”
Further to our earlier ‘view from the ground’ in Tokyo, here’s an update of the situation on Sunday night: Read more
Ever wondered why there was so much spent fuel in water pools around the Fukushima nuclear plant? We have.
Only we’d never realised the answer’s striking lesson (metaphor?) for tail risk in financial — especially, energy — markets. Read more
It’s a worse-case scenario — Japan’s “slow motion” Chernobyl.
Emergency crews at Japan’s earthquake-hit nuclear plant in Fukushima prevented the radiological crisis from spinning further out of control on Friday, but their efforts appeared to be too late to prevent contamination of areas around the site, says the FT. Radiation readings in one area roughly 30km from the power station – beyond a 20km evacuation zone that has been in place since Saturday – were 100 microsieverts an hour on Friday morning, more than 200 times normal levels. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports the IEA has urged Japan to give more information on nuclear crisis.
The continuing crisis at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant continued to baffle experts and governments on Thursday, the FT reports. As emergency workers battled to regain control of the dangerously overheated nuclear complex, concern focused on overheating of the spent fuel rods. Reuters adds that white smoke or steam was seen rising from three reactors, Nos. 2, 3 and 4, at the crippled plant on Friday. Japan’s nuclear safety agency said it was aware of the ultimate “Chernobyl solution” to contain the nuclear disaster by covering it in sand and encasing it in concrete, but added it was concentrating on efforts to cool down the reactors.