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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Japan ruling-party panel to propose break-up of Fukushima operator - media


TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese ruling-party panel will recommend the break-up of Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) after shortcomings in the firm's handling of clean-up operations at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, Japanese media said on Wednesday.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) panel is proposing that Tepco's divisions in charge of decommissioning four damaged reactors and treating contaminated water at the plant should be spun off, the Nikkei and Yomiuri newspapers reported.

Tepco has floundered for more than two and a half years in attempting to clear up the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

An earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and cooling at the plant in March 2011, leading to three reactor meltdowns and explosions that sent a huge plume of radiation into the air and sea, forcing 160,000 people to evacuate nearly townships.

Tepco has lost $27 billion since the disaster at the plant north of Tokyo and faces massive liabilities as it decommissions the facility, compensates evacuees and pays for decontamination of an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

Proposals endorsed by senior LDP members this week include complete financial separation of the Fukushima operations from the utility, or transforming them into an independent administrative agency, the Nikkei and Yomiuri said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised that the government will take primary responsibility for containing contaminated water at Fukushima, saying the situation is under control.

The clean-up process is expected to take at least 30 years and cost more than $100 billion.

After months of denials, Tepco confirmed in July that contaminated water from the coastal plant was flowing into the Pacific Ocean. It has also found that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water leaked from one of hundreds of quickly built storage tanks and reported numerous other problems.

The government effectively nationalised Tepco last year with a taxpayer-funded rescue. But there has been heated debate over direct government involvement in the company and over whether to spin off the Fukushima clean-up and let the remainder of Tepco focus on generating electricity for the Tokyo area.

Tepco has said that it is not in a position to comment on its future structure. It is revising a business turnaround plan after falling behind on its financial targets. The company reports financial first-half earnings on Thursday.

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

NTU to mark first anniversary of writer’s death


TO MARK the first anniversary of the death of writer Han Suyin next month, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is launching a translation scholarship fund in her name and organising a forum on her contributions in the field of translation.

The two events by NTU's School of Humanities and Social Sciences in memory of the former Nanyang University (Nantah) lecturer will be held simultaneously at NTU's Chinese Heritage Centre in Jurong on Nov 16.

The China-born, Eurasian doctor-turned-writer died in Lausanne, Switzerland, aged 95.

Best known for her 1952 novel A Many Splendored Thing, she is remembered by many Nantah graduates as a leftist-leaning lecturer who supported the birth of Nantah in 1953.

Han, who wrote more than 40 books, was proficient in Chinese, English and French. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

A-G: We should act as whistle-blowers on dubious practices


THERE is a growing consensus that lawyers should be gatekeepers who blow the whistle on dubious corporate practices, said Attorney-General Steven Chong.

Speaking at the three-day 26th LawAsia Conference at Suntec convention centre, he called for a "serious consideration" of the idea, explaining that courts and regulators, across various jurisdictions, are expecting more from lawyers now.

Clients may also be demanding more of their lawyers, he added.

He said that "the ground has already begun to shift".

Meanwhile, expectations have seemingly risen in Britain for market players such as hedge-fund bosses, and in Australia, for in-house counsel, said Chong.

In Singapore, professional advisers must be "diligent" in processing information from their clients and "proactive" in making further inquiries, added Chong.

He cited the censuring of OCBC Bank in 2008 by the Securities Industry Council, over its role in a botched takeover bid for company Jade Technologies.

The council found that the bank fell short of the standard expected of it under the Takeover Code as an adviser to the deal.

The bank had not verified independently the would-be buyer's finances, or its shareholding in Jade.

"Is there any legitimate reason why the category of such professional advisers should not encompass lawyers, in-house or otherwise?" asked Chong. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


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