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New TEPCO president eyes LNG as key power source
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) June 29, 2011

The new president of Tokyo Electric Power plans to put liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the centre of the embattled utility's future strategy following the crisis at its Fukushima nuclear plant.

Toshio Nishizawa said in an interview with the Nikkei business daily published Wednesday that LNG-powered thermal power generation would be at the core of an upcoming 10-year power supply plan to be compiled by the autumn.

Nishizawa, who became president Tuesday after the resignation of Masataka Shimizu in May, told the Nikkei that TEPCO will in the future rely less on nuclear power, which currently provides 30 percent of its output, after the accident.

He said LNG-powered thermal power generation will increase from its current levels over 40 percent.

"In the wake of the crisis, the proportion of nuclear-powered electricity supply will be reduced," he said.

The utility is currently only using four of its 17 nuclear reactors. All six at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are out of action, and four are offline at its Fukushima Daiini complex following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Three out of seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant have been suspended since a 2007 earthquake, after which Japan also boosted its purchases of LNG, sending market prices higher.

TEPCO plans to bring LNG-powered facilities onstream ahead of schedule in order to achieve the plan.

In the interview, Nishizawa also expressed willingness to participate in an Australian project to secure about 20 percent of its annual LNG consumption.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, triggering meltdowns, explosions and radiation leaks in the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tens of thousands of have been evacuated from their homes, farms and businesses in a 20-kilometre (12-mile) zone around the radiation-spewing plant, with evacuation pockets also further afield.

Some analysts put TEPCO's compensation bill at 11 trillion yen ($136 billion). Nishizawa said the firm will fund compensation through far-reaching asset sales and cost cuts. The firm has been slammed for its handling of the accident.

Worries for the firm's future remain as it struggles to resolve the crisis by January 2012 and costs mount, and the government has put forward a scheme to ensure it can pay compensation.

TEPCO had been promoting expansion of its nuclear power business abroad before the accident.

But it is "no longer thinking about that except in Vietnam, where there has already been an agreement between governments," the report quoted Nishizawa.

He said the company will cover compensation to victims of the accident through far-reaching asset sales and cost cuts.

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South China Sea sovereignty 'indisputable': China
Beijing (AFP) June 29, 2011 - China on Wednesday reiterated that it has "indisputable sovereignty" over islands in the South China Sea after the United States pledged to help the Philippines, which has its own claims in the area.

A spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Yang Yi, also repeated the government position that safeguarding the sovereignty of the area's potentially resource-rich islets was a "common responsibility" for Beijing and Taipei.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters," Yang told reporters, according to an official transcript.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to have vast oil and gas deposits, while its shipping lanes are vital for global trade.

Vietnam as well as the Philippines have in recent months accused China of taking increasingly aggressive actions in staking its claim to the disputed waters and its archipelagos.

In response, China has insisted it wants to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully but remained firm in its claims to most of the South China Sea, even waters within the Philippines' economic exclusion zone.

The United States and the Philippines on Tuesday launched joint naval exercises in Philippine waters close to the much coveted South China Sea.

The commander of the US 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Scott Van Buskirk, described America and the Philippines as "allies" and said "that is the strongest and most enduring commitment the two nations can make".

"Our alliance is underpinned by a deep and abiding US interest in the freedom and security of the Republic of the Philippines," he added.

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Poland discovers major new natural gas deposit
Warsaw (AFP) June 28, 2011
Gas prospectors in Poland have discovered new deposits estimated at 100 billion cubic metres which could double the country's domestic resources, Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak said Tuesday. "If the estimates of experts are confirmed, the deposits in the region of Kutno would double our reserves," Pawlak said in a statement, referring to a part of central Poland. Poland's proven natura ... read more

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