WASHINGTON, April 25 (UPI) -- Ukraine's infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant will witness a potentially dangerous power cut due to its huge debts, according to a statement by plant officials on Friday. Semyon Shtein, spokesperson for the plant's operator, announced that the company owes more than $6 million in overdue wages and unpaid bills for electricity, gas, fuel and transport. Shtein emphasized that shutting down electricity and gas supplies could be "rather dangerous and it can result in breaches of nuclear safety." The plant's operator had warned the government of the potential danger such a shutdown, said Shtein. If the company removes the plant from the power grid and gas supply, the plant will utilize its own scarce fuel reserves to power generators and provide transport for workers. The world's worst nuclear accident occurred on April 26, 1986 some 60 miles from the capital city of Kiev and sent radioactive fallout over then-Soviet Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and much of northern Europe.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair hopes to draw plans to establish a new generation of nuclear power stations in an effort to combat the challenges of climate change, but he has avoided discussing any plans until after the May 5 election. Britain looks to maintain energy supplies for domestic consumption by seeking alternatives to possible supply disruption such as oil shortages and potential terrorist attacks on Middle East pipelines. A British government official commented on Friday: "They are carefully framing the questions to get the answer they want. The answer to both questions could be nuclear power." The country's nuclear industry is currently holding private talks with Downing Street about a new generation of power stations. Blair is reportedly sympathetic to the advice of Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, who sees nuclear power as good alternative to combating global warming.
By constructing its own oil tanker fleet, China could ensure the country's oil security. China plans to construct a fleet capable of handling at least 50 percent of the country's total oil imports. The oil tanker fleet is expected to have a capacity of 75 million tons of the oil imports by the year 2010. The figure would increase to more than 130 million tons by 2020. The majority of China's oil tankers are currently on average six years older than the oil tankers of other countries. The tankers are small and each has a capacity to transport less than 100,000 tons, compared with the 270,000-ton and 300,000-ton oil tankers commonly used in the international market. China's two largest oil-importing companies do not have their own oil tankers. Oil imports shipped via China's oil tankers within the last several years have made up only 10 percent of total imports. Of those, 90 percent were shipped by leasing foreign oil tankers.
Qatar plans to invest $15 billion in an effort to established one of the world's leading fleet of liquefied natural gas tankers, according to a statement made by Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah on Sunday. Qatar expects the country's LNG production to increase four-fold to 77 million tons annually by 2012, which would make Qatar the largest LNG producer in the world.
LUKoil's investment in the Romanian oil industry in 1998 through 2005 has exceeded $500 million, according to a statement made by LUKoil officials on Friday. Of those, the company invested $283 million in upgrading and restructuring Petrotel Oil Refinery of Ploiesti. Upgraded Petrotel-Lukoil Refinery has entailed developing a fuel distribution network across Romania. The company has also invested $285 million in developing a network of 288 filling stations and ten warehouses for oil products. Within the next several years, LUKoil plans to invest another $70 million in crude oil processing sectors and $50 in oil products sale units. In 2004, LUKoil has paid $195 million in taxes; the company expects that takes for fiscal year 2005 will be $835 million. LUKoil has also created almost 5,000 jobs in the country.
Australia's North West Shelf intends to renew agreements to supply 7.2 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually to Japan, according an official from Woodside. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. Executive David Maxwell announced on Friday that the two countries are currently holding talks with eight Japanese customers, including Japan's largest gas distributor, Tokyo Gas Co., and Asia's largest utility company, Tokyo Electric Power Co., to renew 20-year agreements that are set to expire in March 2009. Maxwell said: "Discussions are now underway with each of those eight customers on the terms and conditions of the new contracts. Proposals have been exchanged and discussions around those proposals are proceeding. We are hopeful a good portion of them of will be sorted out in the next few months." The region has an annual capacity of 11.7 million tons and sells LNG to South Korea and has also recently secured a 25-year agreement to supply China's first LNG import terminal in the southern Guangdong province from 2006.
Closing oil prices, Apr. 25, 3 p.m. London
Brent crude oil: $54.45
West Texas intermediate crude oil: $55.57
(Please send comments to AMihailescu@upi.com)