From Volume 7, Issue 29 of EIR Online, Published July 15, 2008

Global Economic News

Nuclear Manufacturing Capability Expanding Worldwide

July 10 (EIRNS)—As the orders for new nuclear power plants grow, the world nuclear manufacturing industry is being stretched to its limit. This is true both in industrial capacity, and in the supply of engineers and skilled workers. The recent entrance of Alliant Techsystems—a satellite, rocket propulsion, and defense company—into the nuclear business, is indicative of the expansion that is taking place.

As reported in the July 8 Minneapolis Star Tribune, Alliant is completing a factory in West Virginia which will produce rotor tubes for centrifuges, which will produce enriched uranium for nuclear power plant fuel. Other companies that were in the nuclear business 20 years ago, are reapplying for certification to produce nuclear-qualified components.

Earlier this month, French nuclear power giant Areva announced that it will be increasing capacity at its forging plant at Le Creusot in Burgundy, so that fully 100%, up from 80%, of the components for French-built nuclear plants will be manufactured in France.

In early June, South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries, which aims to become a major exporter of nuclear plants, announced that it was raising its production capacities for castings and forgings, through a $395 million investment program.

And in Japan, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries announced last month that it will double capacity for forgings for reactor pressure vessels and other components at its Kobe shipyard. It will hire an additional 1,000 employees, and be able to produce components for two nuclear power units per year.

Russia, too, is upgrading and expanding its nuclear industry; and China and India are now manufacturing their own indigenously designed reactors.

Worldwide, only about two dozen new nuclear plants can be fabricated at any one time. This capacity has to be multiplied many times over, to meet the requirements of a "nuclear renaissance."

In India, Camels Replace Tractors as Fuel Prices Soar

PARIS, July 6 (EIRNS)—The Paris daily Le Monde describes today how small Indian farms are returning to the use of camels for transporting items, because the explosion of fuel prices has made using tractors for haulage into "a luxury."

"The camel is the future of the tractor" the daily quotes a farmer in Indian state of Rajasthan saying, adding "it's slower, but it only consumes water and bushes." Since there is only one planting season, the tractor remains indispensable, he says. The rest of the year, says Le Monde, "on the roads that cross the desert countryside of Rajasthan, camels have never been so numerous ... pulling carts of water drums, villagers, or produce."

Of 1.34 billion farmers on the planet, only 26.7 million have the privilege of using tractors (less than 2%). But in India, those happy few are now buying camels. As a result, the price of camels also is rapidly increasing. At the Winter fair in Pushkar, Rajasthan, a camel now costs the equivalent of 300 euros, about five times more than four years ago. Le Monde quotes the director of a camel preservation NGO complaining that the government policy of irrigation reduced camels' pasturage, in favor of cropland. He further explained that the nearby Thar Desert bordering Pakistan was India's nuclear testing range: "The least accident, and the animal dies for lack of veterinary care," he said. As a result, the number of camels in India has been halved in the last ten years, now down to 450,000.

In Ethiopia, the cost of gasoline is not so much the problem, because only large-scale farming in coffee and oilseed is mechanized. Rather, explains another NGO, specializing in rural micro-financing, the problem is the rising price of animal feed, which has doubled the cost of a working ox, and tripled the cost of working donkeys over the last year alone. The main reason is that more arable land is going to crops, and less for forage, forcing farmers to buy animal feed. And the price of animal feed is rising, says the NGO, "because emerging countries are beginning to eat more meat."

Vietnam Breaks Ground for Steel Complex, Deepwater Seaport

July 7 (EIRNS)—Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung gave the opening speech at the ground-breaking ceremony for Vietnam's largest steel complex in the central province of Ha Tinh on July 6. The steel complex will have an expected annual capacity of 7.5 million metric tons with the first phase of construction, and will cost almost $8 billion. Formosa Heavy Industries Corp. will carry out the initial phase, which will be four years in construction. This phase will employ 10,000 Vietnamese workers.

The plant's capacity will be doubled in the second phase of construction of the steel mill, which will put it among the 15 biggest steel plants in the world.

Initially, iron ore for the mill will be imported from the world's major suppliers, such as Brazil's CVRD and Australia's Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. Coal is available in quantity from Vietnam itself.

The Son Duong deepwater seaport will be capable of handling vessels weighing up to 300,000 DWT (deadweight tons).

The project, which is the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) project in Vietnam, was only licensed late last month. It is part of the Vung Ang Industrial Park which has developed road connections to Thailand and Laos.

London: Don't Use Your Own Food for Fuel: Use Brazil's

July 7 (EIRNS)—The London line, appearing everywhere from the Economist, to the European Union, to Washington, D.C., is that if we must "moderate" our use of biofuels at home to take the pressure off food prices, supplies, and our pretenses of morality, then just import more cane ethanol from Brazil.

Last week's Paris meeting of the European Union energy ministers, which backpedaled somewhat on the volume of food that should be going for bio-energy, said that the EU should instead consider ramping up ethanol imports from Brazil. European Parliament Member Claude Turmes even suggested a bilateral EU-Brazil agreement for biofoolery.

In the U.S., the cry is going up from livestock feeders as well as urban Democrats, that Brazilian ethanol must be freely imported, to allow more U.S. grain to be used for food marketing.

"Biofuels in Brazil—Lean, Green and Not Mean," is the headline on a promotional article in the London Economist, June 26. The rah-rah coverage stresses that some, such as GOP Presidential hopeful John McCain, want to scrap the U.S. tariff on imported ethanol, and well he should. The Economist sings the praises of cane ethanol, ignoring the vast agro-industrial and R&D capacity tied up in using sugar for fuel. For one thing it states defensively, "the sugar industry may be less deadly than many others." Fewer Brazilian peasants are dying in accidents in the fields these days. There is more mechanization.

Furthermore, concerns about land use are "premature," the Economist asserts: "Sugar cane occupies only 7 million hectares (17 million acres) of Brazil's farmland (and only about half of the crop is distilled into ethanol). This compares with some 200 million hectares devoted to cattle ranching, much of which is extensive (a Brazilian cow enjoys, on average, a lordly hectare of grazing). Sugar could expand on degraded pasture with little or no effect on beef prices."

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