Japan investigates Tepco’s nuclear inspection records

Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has admitted to falsifying records and violating safety regulations at three of its largest nuclear power plants. A total of 29 cases of cracks or minor structural damage was found in the company’s nuclear reactors, leading to concerns over safety in Japan’s nuclear power industry.

Tepco is alleged to have covered up the structural problems during inspections carried out in the late 1980s and 1990s. Several senior executives have resigned over the matter, and the authorities are reported to have raided Tepco’s office.

The reactors in question include the Fukushima 1 and 2 nuclear power plants in northern Japan. The reactor damage was discovered by General Electric International Inc., (GEII) which was hired by Tepco to inspect its reactors. The GEII inspector contacted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in July 2000, which launched a two-year investigation.

The nuclear plants were allowed to continue operating during the inspection. Japan depends on nuclear power for 30 per cent of its electricity, of which Tepco’s plants account for half. Tepco has now begun an internal investigation into the matter.

Vector Ltd acquires NZ’s UnitedNetworks

New Zealand’s United Networks, the country’s largest distribution company, will be bought by the community-owned Vector Ltd. for NZ$1.5bn ($705m).

Vector will sell on some assets to a consortium of Powerco and Hawke’s Bay Network, including electricity networks in the Bay of Plenty for NZ$785m. It will sell the central North Island gas network to Powerco for NZ$220m.

UnitedNetworks is majority owned by US energy company Aquila, which has been looking to offload assets in a bid to improve its financial position. The sale means that Vector will become the country’s largest electricity distribution company; Powerco will become New Zealand’s largest retail gas distribution company as well as the second largest electricity company.

Vector used the Bank of NZ, ABN Amro, National Bank and Westpac to finance the deal.

Free market prevails

The Indonesian government will begin liberalizing the country’s power sector in 2007, with Batam, Java and Bali expected to be the first provinces to introduce a free market.

The House of Representatives passed a power bill into law last week, after more than one and a half years of deliberation. Batam will be one of the first areas to be targeted as its power prices are already higher than in other areas of the country.

Vietnam strengthens transmission

Electricity corporation of VietNam (EVN) has started construction on a 500 kV transmission line linking the Phu My power plant with Ho Chi Minh City. The $100m project is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

The project consists of more than 4000 km of 500 kV transmission line, and is being financed by the Japan Bank for International Co-operation with EVN’s equity.

Sime bags Bakun contract

The Malaysia-China Hydro joint venture consortium led by a unit of Sime Darby Bhd has been awarded the civil works contract for the RM9bn ($2.4bn) Bakun dam project in Sarawak.

The dam will have an installed capacity of 2400 MW comprising 300 MW in the first phase and five 300 MW units in future phases. The RM1.8bn contract will be shared among Sime Darby’s wholly-owned subsidiary Sime Engineering along with six other companies comprising of China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corp., Edward & Sons, WCT Engineering, MTD Capital, Ahmad Zaki Resources and Syarikat Ismail Ibrahim.

The consortium has been given a five-year deadline to complete the project. The electro-mechanical package of the project is also up for tender. Six firms are said have submitted bids.

First Three Gorges units to power up in August 2003

Four generating units of China’s Three Gorges hydropower project are expected to generate power by August next year. Units 2 and 5 will start first, followed by 3 and 6.

The open diversion channel of the Yangtze River will be dammed up at the end of November, forcing water to flow out from the 22 diversion outlets of the dam. The reservoir is scheduled to retain water from April next year, with the water level rising to 135 m by June.

In mid-2003, the turbine-generators will be gradually put into operation, and the four units are expected to yield a total of 5.5bn kWh in 2003.

News digest

Australia: Seven final bids have been submitted for the Australian assets of Xcel Energy subsidiary NRG Energy. Belgian company Tractebel, Malaysian company Genting. Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings and New Zealand’s Contact Energy all bid for Flinders power station in South Australia.

Australia: The A$500m ($275m) Basslink electricity interconnector project, which will link the states of Victoria and Tasmania, has received approval from the Victorian state government.

China: China has conducted a successful trial of the No.1 generating unit of its first commercial heavy water nuclear reactor in Haiyan County of Zhejiang province. It is expected the No.1 unit will begin power production and be incorporated in the power network next month and operate at full capacity by the end of the year.

China: China’s government has ordered the closure of several small coal fired power plants totalling 1854 MW in generating capacity, as part of its ongoing efforts to revamp the electricity sector.

China: ABB has won a $9.8m contract from Zhejiang Provincial Power Company to install new electricity distribution centres in two southeastern China cities, Hangzhou and Ningbo. The contract is to install IT systems and software for two new control centres which will coordinate the flows of power in distribution areas with peak loads exceeding 2000 MW, serving around 1m customers each.

India: The Industrial Development Bank of India, lenders to the Dabhol Power Company, have rejected the latest offer from General Electric and Bechtel, the promoters and engineering majors for the project, to complete and restart the 2184 MW plant.

Indonesia: Nearly 4000 Indonesians filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Japan in a Tokyo court on September 5 seeking $165m in compensation for losses caused by a controversial dam project financed by Japanese aid. They are seeking ¥19.3bn ($165m) in compensation.

Singapore: Hong Kong-based CLP Power China has taken a 70 per cent stake in a new joint venture that will supply electricity to southern China’s Guangdong province. The joint venture, which is scheduled to start operations by 2004, is a major step forward in China’s $30bn programme to transmit electricity from west to east.

Sri Lanka: VA Tech Transmission & Distribution succeeded in signing a contract with Ceylon Electricity Board for the delivery, erection, installation and commissioning of two substations which form a part of the Kukule Ganga hydroelectric power project in Sri Lanka.