Friday, December 30, 2005

Westinghouse sale could tilt balance in global nuclear power industry�-�ENGLISH��Westinghouse sale could tilt balance in global nuclear power industry�-�ENGLISH

12/23/2005The Asahi Shimbun
Two Japanese companies have joined the final round of bidding for U.S. nuclear power plant manufacturer Westinghouse Electric Co., and if either wins, the global industry could undergo a significant realignment.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. submitted bids in the tender that Westinghouse parent British Nuclear Fuels closed this week.
Westinghouse is a major manufacturer of pressurized-water reactors, the mainstream in the world market.
Both MHI and Toshiba want to bolster their presence overseas, where construction of new plants is increasing.
The successful bidder will be selected as early as January, and the purchase price is estimated at between 200 billion and 300 billion yen.
At the end of 2004, there were 356 light-water reactors, which are used in a large majority of the world's nuclear power plants.
Three-fourths of light-water reactors are pressurized-water type, and the remainder are boiling-water type.
MHI, a partner of Westinghouse, manufactures pressurized-water reactors.
In February, MHI submitted a joint tender with Westinghouse for construction of four new nuclear reactors in China.
"It is essential to maintain our relationship with Westinghouse to expand overseas operations," a top MHI executive said.
The world's nuclear power plant industry is led by France's Areva, which is strong in pressurized-water type, and General Electric Co., a U.S. manufacturer of the boiling-water type.
The MHI executive said the company will be able to compete with the two leaders if it wins the bid to buy Westinghouse.
Toshiba, an ally of GE, manufactures boiling-water reactors, as does Hitachi Ltd., another Japanese nuclear power plant manufacturer.
Toshiba and GE are working together on research on construction of new nuclear reactors in Tennessee.
Industry analysts say Toshiba is aiming to extend its reach into the larger market of pressurized-water reactors by buying Westinghouse.
If Toshiba wins the bid, the Toshiba-GE camp would become the predominant industry leader, moving past Areva, one industry analyst said.
In that case, MHI could be forced to ally with Areva or other major manufacturers to expand international operations, the analyst added.
Westinghouse commercialized the world's first pressurized-water reactor in 1957, and more than 40 percent of nuclear power plants worldwide use the company's technology.
Westinghouse's fate is being closely watched because the industry consensus is that pressurized-water reactors will remain predominant overseas.
A number of engineers are familiar with requirements on pressurized-water reactors, making it easier to reassign technicians and train new recruits.
As of the end of 2004, 57 light-water reactors were either in planning or under construction worldwide. Forty-eight are pressurized-water types, and nine are boiling-water types.
Industry officials expect pressurized-water types to be predominant in China and the United States, two of the most promising markets.
China plans to build about 30 reactors by 2020. The 10 reactors in planning or construction stages are all pressurized-water type.
The U.S. government, which has shifted to a pro-nuclear policy, aims to begin building new reactors around 2010.
Most of the country's existing plants are pressurized-water type, which will likely be the favorite in the future.
Overseas markets are becoming more important as the Japanese market has been stalled.
In Japan, boiling-water reactors account for the majority partly because Tokyo Electric Power Co., the nation's largest electric utility, uses them.
British Nuclear Fuels, hit by sluggish performances, is selling Westinghouse only six years after its purchase.(IHT/Asahi: December 23,2005)


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