[Yomiuri]U.S., French firms vie for N-cleanup work

<Quote> [Yomiuri]


U.S. and French firms, supported by their embassies in Japan, are aggressively marketing themselves to take advantage of unprecedented business opportunities in nuclear decontamination work and decommissioning of reactors following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The expected lengthy projects, which will cost trillions of yen, are seen as not only a huge business opportunity but also as a chance to acquire valuable experience.

On June 26, an event on decontamination technologies was held at the Japan External Trade Organization office in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

“We are totally confident in our decontamination work ability,” a representative of one U.S. company said.

“We have more than 20 years experience in handling radioactive waste and reactor decommissioning,” a representative for another U.S. firm said.

With about 230 people from 32 U.S. firms and 100 Japanese firms, including decontamination device manufacturers and general contractors, the venue was filled with excitement.

From the United States, CH2M HILL, an engineering firm whose specialties include the decommissioning and cleanup of contaminated sites, and ECC, which specializes in disposal and management of radioactive waste, took part.

The meeting was jointly organized by JETRO, the Environment Ministry and the U.S. Embassy.

Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said, “I hope you will give us a hand in rebuilding Japan.”

U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos said the U.S. firms were ready to showcase their experience and find business partners, and he encouraged companies from both countries to develop good relations with each another.

Each U.S. firm had three minutes to introduce themselves on the stage, with some of their representatives speaking fluent Japanese. They exchanged business cards with officials of Japanese firms and explained their technology and experience.

“There are about 10 firms that we consider potential business partners,” said an official of a Japanese decontamination device maker.

But a Japanese trading company employee was a little skeptical, saying, “I don’t know how much they can actually do.”

Behind U.S. firms’ aggressive marketing is the enormous budget for the decontamination and decommissioning work. The ministry has already budgeted about 1.1 trillion yen for fiscal 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The full-fledged work will be carried out by several firms. If more interim storage facilities are needed to be built or the scope of cleanup work is expanded, the budget could reach tens of trillions of yen.

Although Tokyo Electric Power Co. earmarked 900.1 billion yen for decommissioning four reactors at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant for the period ended in March, it is unclear exactly how much it would cost, and the expense is highly likely to increase.

Meanwhile, the French Embassy in Japan held in May a radioactive decontamination technology seminar, inviting Japanese general contractors and government officials. Some French firms, including nuclear giant Areva SA, attended the seminar, and an evening reception was also held at the embassy.

“It is not only a big business opportunity for them but also they think they can acquire experience only available in Fukushima in preparation for a possible nuclear accident that might occur somewhere in the future,” said a senior official of the Environment Ministry.

(Jul. 5, 2012)





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