Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi pursue talks to merge n-units

Tokyo: Japan’s Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are in the final stages of talks to integrate their nuclear fuel units, authorities said on Thursday.

The companies were aiming to merge the units to sustain them at a time when most Japanese reactors are offline as a fallout of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, EFE news reported.

The three Japanese conglomerates were looking to merge their nuclear units early 2017 and the move is expected to cut costs in fuel rod manufacturing and other operations, the authorities said.

While none of the three companies confirmed the news on Thursday, they have acknowledged they are considering several options for their nuclear fuel businesses, including a joint holding company.

Currently, only three reactors, of the 43 in working condition in the archipelago, are active, following the nuclear shutdown triggered by the 2011 Fukushima plant accident, and the subsequent tightening of safety norms.

The situation has made nuclear units unsustainable for these companies, which have helped build the reactors and supply fuel to Japanese power companies for years.

Meanwhile, the three companies are also trying to acquire majority control in other firms in the sector.

Mitsubishi Heavy bought back shares of Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel from partners such as the France-based Areva, raising its stake in the company from 35 to 95 percent, said the daily.

Hitachi is expected to acquire a majority stake in the Japanese company Global Nuclear Fuel – a joint venture with partners including General Electric – and Toshiba plans to invest in Nuclear Fuel Industries, where it owns a majority stake through its US subsidiary company Westinghouse Electric.

The conglomerates are also expected to discuss joining forces in the area of reactor construction to ensure medium and long-term profitability.