Siemens ponders post-Fukushima nuclear plans

Siemens is considering whether to abandon its plan to form a partnership with the Russian State Atomic Energy Corp (Rosatom), reports the Wall Street Journal.
 
In 2009 Siemens announced its intention to work with the Russian nuclear firm to develop nuclear power around the world. Siemens intended to weld its expertise in building steam turbines and generators and large-scale plant projects with the Rosatom's experience in building nuclear reactors.
 
While others in the nuclear industry, such as GE and Westinghouse, have continued to express confidence in the future of atomic power, Siemens executives have been more guarded in their public comments in recent weeks, according to the newspaper.
 
"Fukushima has to be an occasion for taking stock [of nuclear energy]," Siemens finance chief Joe Kaeser told Germany's Der Tagesspiegel newspaper in an interview this week. "The world has to do some soul-searching," he added, but declined to elaborate on Siemens' own nuclear aims, reports the Wall Street Journal.
 
Some senior officials at Siemens, whose businesses range from high-speed trains to medical-imaging equipment, were already skeptical about the potential for a so-called nuclear renaissance.
 
Even before the Fukushima crisis, many nuclear-reactor projects around the world were stalled or mired in cost-overruns. Since the crisis, those doubts have grown as many countries have started reviews or frozen plans to build new nuclear plants.
 
Siemens's nuclear strategy has always been complicated by antinuclear sentiment in Germany, home to nearly a third of its work force. There, the Fukushima accident sparked massive street protests against a government move to extend the working lives of Germany's nuclear reactors. In response, Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered the temporary shutdown of seven reactors within days of the first blasts at the Japanese plant.
 
Some Siemens senior officials and employees also worry the company's nuclear ambitions appear increasingly at odds with CEO Peter Löscher's efforts to make it a leader in environmentally friendly infrastructure—from smart electricity grids to wind turbines to solar thermal power plants.
 
Heinz Steffen, an analyst at Fairesearch, said that Siemens won't face a substantial loss of revenue if it abandons the planned Rosatom partnership. But he added that Siemens would be unlikely to pull out of nuclear-plant activities altogether due to its long-term contracts to supply and service nuclear projects around the world.
 
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