On Tuesday, Toshiba is expected to announce a massive write-down, perhaps as big as $6.1 billion


Toshiba’s Nuclear Reactor Mess Winds Back to a Louisiana Swamp
by Jason Clenfield and Yuji Nakamura
13 February 2017, 00:03 GMT 13 Updated February 2017, 00:40 GMT
https://nuclear-news.net/

If you want to understand why Toshiba Corp. is about to report a multi-billion dollar write-down on its nuclear reactor business, the story begins and ends with a one-time pipe manufacturer with roots in the swamp country of Louisiana.

The Shaw Group Inc., based in Baton Rouge, looms large in the complex tale of blown deadlines and budgets at four nuclear reactor projects in Georgia and South Carolina overseen by Westinghouse Electric Co., a Toshiba subsidiary.

On Tuesday, Toshiba is expected to announce a massive write-down, perhaps as big as $6.1 billion, to cover cost overruns at Westinghouse, which now owns most of Shaw’s assets. The loss may actually eclipse the $5.4 billion that Toshiba paid for Westinghouse in 2006 and has forced the Japanese industrial conglomerate to put up for sale a significant stake in its prized flash-memory business. Toshiba had to sell off other assets last year following a 2015 accounting scandal.

Toshiba made a big bet on a nuclear renaissance that never materialized, in part because it couldn’t build reactors within the timelines and budgets it had promised. The company had anticipated that Westinghouse’s next-generation AP1000 modular reactor design would be easier and faster to execute — just the opposite of what happened. Now the Japanese company may exit the nuclear reactor construction business altogether and focus exclusively on design and maintenance.

“There’s billions and billions of dollars at stake here,” says Gregory Jaczko, former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). “This could take down Toshiba and it certainly means the end of new nuclear construction in the U.S.”

Toshiba confirmed it will unveil a “huge loss” on Tuesday; a spokeswoman declined further comment. In January, Satoshi Tsunakawa, Toshiba’s president, said the company may sell shareholdings, real estate or other assets if needed to strengthen its balance sheet. “We will keep considering all options as needed and promptly, and take all necessary steps,” he said at a briefing in Tokyo.
New Start

When Toshiba bought Westinghouse a decade ago, the U.S. Congress had just started dangling loan guarantees and other incentives aimed at restarting a dormant nuclear industry. In 2008, Westinghouse signed deals to build four new reactors for utilities Southern Co. and Scana Corp., the first U.S. nuclear plants since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island to be approved for construction by regulators.

In a 2015 interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Southern Chief Executive Officer Thomas Fanning said his utility’s two reactor projects at Plant Vogtle in Georgia were “going to be one of the most successful mega-projects in modern American industrial history.”

To build that mega-project, Westinghouse turned to Shaw, a newcomer to nuclear work. Shaw was founded in 1987 by James Bernhard Jr., who distinguished himself through his deal-making acumen. He got his start paying $50,000 for the assets of a bankrupt pipe fabricator, and grew via one acquisition after another. In 2000, Bernhard swooped in at a bankruptcy auction and, during an 18-hour bidding war, bought Stone & Webster Inc., a once-venerable engineering firm that had already agreed to a deal with a much bigger rival.

Stone & Webster had built the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus and many of the country’s nuclear plants from the 1950s to the 1970s, but it was a shell of its old self when Bernhard bought it. Still, the name gave Shaw new credibility in the nuclear field, which it capitalized on to win all of Westinghouse’s contracts. “They weren’t necessarily qualified, but they had the heart and the go-get-them to take it on,’’ says Jeffrey Keller, a retired construction project controller who worked for Shaw at its nuclear sites.

Bernhard declined to comment for this story.

Building nuclear reactors is a tall order, given the regulatory complexity and consortium of contractors required to get the job done. And in fairness to Westinghouse and Shaw, plenty of other companies have missed deadlines. “Nuclear construction on-time and on-budget? It’s essentially never happened,’’ said Andrew J. Wittmann, an analyst who covers the industry for Robert W. Baird & Co.
Modular Design

It’s easy to see why Shaw wanted Toshiba’s business, but harder to understand why Toshiba chose Shaw. More established contractors simply may not have wanted the work, but Bernhard also used his deal-making skills to sweeten the agreement by taking on a chunk of Toshiba’s debts temporarily. “If you want to have a business, you have to get plants up and running, so they went forward even if it wasn’t a perfect match– that was the calculation for Toshiba,” says David Silver, an analyst at Morningstar in Chicago.

Westinghouse executives hoped its AP1000 reactors’ main components, or modules, could be built efficiently at specialized work yards, then shipped to a plant site and snapped together like enormous steel-and-concrete Legos.

On top of that, the U.S. government in 2005 gave nuclear developers a package of tax credits, cost-overrun backstops, and federal loan guarantees. In the next few years, U.S. utilities filed dozens of applications to build new reactors.

After Westinghouse hired Shaw to handle construction in 2008, it wasn’t long before the company’s work came under scrutiny. By early 2012, NRC inspectors found steel in the foundation of one reactor had been installed improperly. A 300-ton reactor vessel nearly fell off a rail car. The wrong welds were used on nuclear modules and had to be redone. Shaw “clearly lacked experience in the nuclear power industry and was not prepared for the rigor and attention to detail required,’’ Bill Jacobs, who had been selected as the state’s monitor for the project, told the Georgia Public Service Commission in late 2012.

The troubles were only starting. At Southern’s two new reactors in Georgia — a massive construction site on the edge of the Savannah River– thousands of workers have logged more than 25 million man-hours, yet the project is years behind schedule.

0riginally planned to open in 2016 and 2017, they’re now slated for 2019 and 2020–and that may be a stretch. To hit the new targets, Westinghouse would have to accelerate the pace of work to “over three times the amount that has ever been achieved to date,” Jacobs, the state’s project monitor, told the utility commission last year.

In November, Westinghouse said 33.4 percent of the construction was complete, but a utility supervisor with Southern who asked not to be identified said he’s skeptical. The hardest part of the project – the reactor’s center – has just started, he said.
Shaw Acquisition

Just as problems began to surface, in July 2012 Shaw agreed to sell itself for $3.3 billion to Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., a much larger engineering firm that wanted in on the envisioned nuclear renaissance. But three years later, with little progress to show for itself, CB&I decided to cut its losses. It sold the bulk of Shaw’s assets to Toshiba for $229 million, accepting the significantly lowered price in exchange for shedding liabilities related to the projects.

But in April 2016, four months after the deal closed, Toshiba concluded it had miscalculated and accused CB&I of inflating Shaw’s assets by $2.2 billion, and asked to renegotiate. CB&I balked and sued Toshiba for breach of contract last July. A preliminary decision in December ruled in favor of Toshiba’s request to renegotiate. CB&I has appealed that ruling. “We remain confident this issue will come to a resolution favorable to CB&I,” said Gentry Brann, a spokeswoman for the company. CB&I has argued that at least some of the reactor problems have been because of Westinghouse and its AP1000 designs.

Westinghouse has turned to another construction contractor, Fluor Corp., to help get its projects back on track, but it’s too early to say how much progress they’re making. Meanwhile, the NRC continues to press Westinghouse about problems with its AP1000 design after a neutron shield block, which contains radiation, failed during testing. Regulators will hold a hearing this week at which Westinghouse is expected to explain its work on the issue; Toshiba meanwhile declined to comment.

Those troubled projects in the American South are now threatening the Japanese icon’s foundations. The value of Toshiba shares has been cut in half over the last six weeks, wiping out more than $7 billion in market value.

And what of the U.S. nuclear renaissance? Westinghouse’s projects for Southern in Georgia and Scana in South Carolina had once been viewed as part of a rebirth of the U.S. atomic power industry. However, stumbles with those projects, the nuclear disaster in Fukushima and a flood of cheap natural gas that lowered U.S. power prices made new reactors increasingly expensive and risky. Of the 30-odd applications for new reactors that started in the mid-2000s, only the four Westinghouse units have gone forward.

One figure who seems to have come out of the Westinghouse mess pretty much unscathed is Shaw founder Bernhard. He completed the sale of his firm to CB&I in 2013, pulling in $3.3 billion for himself and other shareholders. Bernhard, whose stake was worth about $50 million at the time of the sale, now runs a private equity firm in Baton Rouge.

“They got out whole and then some,” said Silver, the analyst with Morningstar. “It was a good deal for them but only because they were able to unload the hot potato.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-13/toshiba-s-nuclear-reactor-mess-winds-back-to-a-louisiana-swamp

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AlertsUSA Reports of Numerous States Having Rabies, and Wyoming a Killer Bird Flu

RSOE EDIS
RSOE Emergency and Disaster Information Service
Budapest, Hungary

RSOE EDIS ALERTMAIL
2015-03-28 06:43:09 – Biological Hazard – USA

EDIS Code: BH-20150328-47528-USA
Date&Time: 2015-03-28 06:43:09 [UTC]
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State/Prov.: State of New Jersey,
Location: Cumberland COunty,
City: Deerfield
Number of infected people: 2

Description:
Two people were exposed to rabies Sunday in Deerfield Township after they touched an open wound on a duck, which was bitten by a raccoon. Although ducks cannot contract rabies – only mammals can – touching wounds with bare hands can result in transmission of the virus, the Cumberland County Health Department said. The two people were treated with rabies post-exposure preventive medication, the department said. Rabies is almost certainly fatal if left untreated. Rabies is most commonly spread through a bite, but it can be spread by saliva touching the eyes, mouth or nose. The rabies virus is mainly found in wild skunks, raccoons, cats or dogs. Animals that are infected usually appear unstable with a wobbly walk, foaming at the mouth, or excessively drooling saliva. Wild animals that appear friendly and unafraid of humans may be infected – just as those that show aggressive behavior may be. The health department said to never approach a wild animal displaying any symptoms and to call local Animal Control if you see one. The health department announced a rabies clinic schedule, where residents of any municipality that is covered by the department can have their pets vaccinated at no charge. A fee of $10 will apply to anyone living outside that jurisdiction, which includes Vineland. The first clinic takes place Saturday at Cumberland County Fairgrounds on Carmel Road in Millville from 9 a.m. to noon.rn

The name of Hazard: Rabies (raccoon-human)
Species: Spread
Status: Confirmed
Posted:2015-03-28 06:43:09 [UTC]
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2015-03-27 04:52:08 – Biological Hazard – USA

EDIS Code: BH-20150327-47508-USA
Date&Time: 2015-03-27 04:52:08 [UTC]
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State/Prov.: State of California,
Location: Alameda County,
City:

Description:
A fourth bat found in Alameda County has tested positive for rabies, local health officials announced last week. The bat was found March 14 in Sunol, said Sherri Willis, a spokeswoman for Alameda County Public Health Department. Three other bats found since March 6 in the Fremont area have tested positive for the virus. The first bat was found dead March 6 in the city’s Irvington neighborhood near the entrance to the Wally Pond Irvington Community Center at 41885 Blacow Road, police said. In another case, a dog picked up a bat March 13 near the Niles Elementary School playground. Police said that the dog’s owner took it home and brought it to the Tri-City Animal Shelter, where it was tested the next Monday. Officials did not have any information about when or where the third bat was discovered. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s passed by touching the saliva or brain tissue of an infected animal or being bitten by one.

The name of Hazard: Rabies (bat)
Species: Animal
Status: Confirmed
Posted:2015-03-27 04:52:08 [UTC]
———————————

2015-03-27 04:41:56 – Biological Hazard – USA
EDIS Code: BH-20150327-47505-USA
Date&Time: 2015-03-27 04:41:56 [UTC]
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State/Prov.: State of Texas,
Location: ,
City: Bellmead

Description:
A second skunk within a a month has tested positive for rabies in Bellmead, officials announced Thursday. Officials responded to a call Wednesday morning in the 900 block of Hogan Lane to find a skunk behaving erratically, said Bellmead police Detective Kory Martin. The animal was killed on the spot and sent for testing, the results of which returned Thursday. The afternoon of March 10, another skunk tested positive for rabies after a Bellmead animal control officer was bitten trying to capture the animal in the 200 block of San Pedro Street. Martin has said the skunk bit the officer’s finger before it tested positive for rabies. The officer was expected to be OK, as he had already received a pre-exposure vaccination for rabies after a stray cat bit him earlier this year, Martin said.

The name of Hazard: Rabies (skunk)
Species: Animal
Status: Confirmed
Posted:2015-03-27 04:41:56 [UTC]
————————————-

2015-03-27 04:37:38 – Biological Hazard – USA

EDIS Code: BH-20150327-47503-USA
Date&Time: 2015-03-27 04:37:38 [UTC]
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State/Prov.: State of Florida,
Location: Sarasota County,
City:

Description:
On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County issued a rabies alert. The agency confirms a goat had been infected, and has been euthanized. According to veterinarians who treated the goat, the attacking animal was not large, and likely a raccoon or fox. The rabies alert covers an area within a 1.5-mile radius of Honore Avenue and Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota. That area spans north of Bahia Vista Street to Fruitville Road, south of Bahia Vista to Bee Ridge Road, east of Honore Avenue to Apex Road, and west of Honore to McIntosh Road. The alert will last for 60 days. Health officials ask you to maintain heightened awareness that rabies is active in Sarasota County. Pet owners in the area should not leave their pet’s food outside, and keep pets on a leash at all times.

The name of Hazard: Rabies (goat)
Species: Animal
Status: Confirmed
Posted:2015-03-27 04:37:38 [UTC]

———————————————–
Bird Flu

2015-03-27 04:53:56 – Biological Hazard – USA

EDIS Code: BH-20150327-47509-USA
Date&Time: 2015-03-27 04:53:56 [UTC]
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State/Prov.: State of Wyoming,
Location: Near to Cheyenne,
City:

Description:
Wyoming state officials received confirmation on Wednesday that the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza strain was identified in a Canada goose found near Cheyenne, Wyoming. This is the first detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Wyoming. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the State Veterinarian ask that people continue to be on the lookout for birds that may exhibit symptoms of the disease and advise that those handling birds or who own birds should exercise caution. Avian influenza (commonly called “bird flu”) is a viral infection found in a wide variety of domestic and wild birds. The highly pathogenic forms of the disease (HPAI) are highly contagious among birds and can result in high mortality rates in affected domestic flocks. Clinical signs in affected birds may include edema or swelling of the head, nasal discharge, neurologic signs (circling, incoordination), depression or sudden death. HPAI has been confirmed in eleven states, including Wyoming, in wild and/or domestic birds. The disease has not been implicated in any human infection in the US, to date. Officials say there is no immediate human health concern due to the virus as long as sanitation precautions are taken. Proper handling and cooking includes routine precautions like wearing latex or rubber gloves when cleaning birds, washing hands with soapy water after cleaning, cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces that come in contact with wild birds (for example, washing with soapy water and disinfecting with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution), and cooking wild birds thoroughly before eating the meat. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that birds are safe to eat as long as they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees. Affected birds have now been found in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways where wild bird migrations occur. Most of Wyoming is located in the Central flyway, with a small portion in the Pacific Flyway west of the continental divide, Domestic flocks associated with this outbreak have reported high mortality with very few noticeable clinical signs prior to death.rnrn”Over the past several months highly pathogenic strains of the Avian Influenza virus have been found in wild birds and domestic poultry in several new states including Wyoming,” said State Veterinarian, Jim Logan. “We believe it is best if domestic poultry owners – commercial and backyard flocks – take precautions to prevent their birds from having any contact or exposure with wild birds. Avian influenza can be transmitted to domestic bird flocks from infected wild birds. We also advise domestic poultry owners to institute good biosecurity practices to prevent bringing pathogens into their facilities.” These measures include: wearing clean clothes, washing hands and disinfecting footwear before entering any bird area. Additional biosecurity practices include: disinfecting equipment and tools, cleaning cages regularly, changing food and water daily are recommended to limit disease transmission within flocks. Information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov. While most avian influenza viruses rarely cause clinical signs in wild waterfowl, it appears that raptors and wild gallinaceous birds (pheasants, quail, turkey, grouse) may be more susceptible to disease from HPAI. Game and Fish recommends that falconers avoid hunting avian species, particularly waterfowl, during this HPAI outbreak. Game bird farmers are advised to follow the same precautions as outlined for domestic poultry.

The name of Hazard: H5N2 (highly pathogenic avian influenza virus)
Species: Animal
Status: Confirmed
Posted:2015-03-27 04:53:56 [UTC]

——————————–

Biological Hazard, Turkey Creek, FL

RSOE EDIS
RSOE Emergency and Disaster Information Service
Budapest, Hungary

RSOE EDIS ALERTMAIL

2015-01-01 04:40:16 – Biological Hazard – USA

EDIS Code: BH-20150101-46512-USA
Date&Time: 2015-01-01 04:40:16 [UTC]
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State/Prov.: State of Florida,
Location: Turkey Creek,

Description:
Thousands of fish and animals are dying in a local waterway, and longtime residents say it’s not just an ordinary fish kill. Turkey Creek in Palm Bay is known for its clean, fresh water. It flows into the Indian River Lagoon downstream, and it’s there in the lagoon where most fish kills happen, not in the creek. Chris Jones grew up along Turkey Creek. “You can get out and be in old Florida, natural Florida, the way it was hundreds of years ago before people were here,” said Jones. But now, catfish have been dying for weeks. People have reported dead animals including an alligator and some raccoons and turtles. They’ve taken pictures of a film on the water. “I’ve never seen catfish or any fish die off to this extent,” said Jones. “It’s quite upsetting because I’ve been here since ’73, and the waters were much better,” said John Mongioi. Palm Bay Public Works employees checked the water for dissolved oxygen but said so far levels look normal. The city sewage plant spilled effluent into the creek in September. It seems unlikely that could still be having an effect. It’s an unnerving mystery.

The name of Hazard: Mass die-off (fishes)
Species: Animal
Status: Confirmed

Posted:2015-01-01 04:40:16 [UTC]