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No. 362, November 1999

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American Companies in Japan


The late September nuclear fission chain reaction at a nuclear fuel processing plant in Tokaimura, Ibaraki prefecture has forced sourcing changes at JAPAN NUCLEAR FUEL CO., LTD. The company, a supplier of nuclear fuel rods that is owned by GENERAL ELECTRIC CO., HITACHI, LTD. and TOSHIBA CORP., now buys about half of its powdered uranium dioxide requirements from JCO CO., LTD., but the operator of the Tokaimura plant will be shut down in the wake of Japan's worst nuclear accident. As an interim step, JNF will increase imports of uranium dioxide from GE while it searches abroad for other suppliers of this critical input. Despite the disruption, GE, Hitachi and Toshiba are moving ahead with their plan to form a company in January 2000 to take over their respective nuclear fuel businesses on both sides of the Pacific (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 356, May 1999, p. 5). The new firm will have two subsidiaries, one based on JNF and the other encompassing GE's Wilmington, North Carolina nuclear fuel operations. The American partner will own 60 percent of the holding company.

The freedom that independent power producers will have starting in April 2000 to sell electricity directly to industrial users has lured a heavyweight into the market. ENRON CORP., the top wholesaler of electricity and natural gas in the United States, has formed a subsidiary in Tokyo and is scouting out both partners for its proposed business and potential customers. The diversified Houston-based multinational has not disclosed, however, whether it plans to build its own power-generating facilities or buy existing plants. TEXACO INC. also is exploring the opportunities emerging in Japan's IPP market (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 360, September 1999, p. 17).

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