Five years ago, meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan sparked what would become a prolonged slide in prices for uranium nuclear fuel. Today, the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter-century is depressing prices again. Antinuclear sentiment is gaining momentum in Japan with the election three weeks ago of an antinuclear governor in the only Japanese prefecture with an operating nuclear-power plant, and the likelihood that a court injunction will halt the next reactor slated to go online in August. Japan was once the world’s No. 3 nuclear-power generator, behind the U.S. and France. The slump in the uranium market is being exacerbated by weak demand from the U.S. and plentiful uranium supplies in China, an emerging nuclear-power producer. The price of uranium has slumped to $25 a pound, its lowest level since April 2005, according to the Ux Consulting Co., a nuclear-fuel research firmthat publishes weekly market prices. The fuel’s value is down 27% since the start of this year and is a fraction of the $136 a pound it traded for at its 2007 peak. It is the worst-performing mined commodity this year. Other natural resources such as copper, coal and iron ore have gained year to date.
Wall St Journal 31st July 2016 read more »
As the Hinkley Point debacle was unfolding in Europe, Japan’s nuclear industry had two grim moments of its own last week. The more terrifying was the discovery of digital monsters from the Pokémon Go game in the country’s nuclear power stations, raising the prospect of smartphone users irradiating themselves in the hunt for Magikarp and Squirtle. Arguably more significant, though less widely noted, were remarks by one of Japan’s leading businessmen. Teruo Asada is an executive of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives and chairman of Marubeni, one of the country’s biggest trading houses; he is as far as could be from a tree-hugging green. And yet he was scathing about the Japanese government’s infatuation with nuclear power and reluctance to embrace renewable energy. Only two reactors are in operation and of the pre-Fukushima fleet at least a dozen will never be switched on. These include six at Fukushima Dai-ichi and four elsewhere in Fukushima prefecture. Although they were undamaged by the tsunami, it is clear that the region will never tolerate nuclear power stations again. Several more are due for decommissioning on grounds of age, leaving 42 which could go back into operation. They must first clear an obstacle course of certification by the newly rigorous regulator and the scrutiny of the courts in civil suits brought by local anti-nuclear groups. In March, a local court ordered the shutdown of two reactors at the Takahama plant on the grounds that they could be at risk from future earthquakes.
Times 1st August 2016 read more »