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Toshiba developing small N-reactor / Reactor to be used to mine oil sands in Canada; initial operation by 2020 eyed via Daily Yomiuri Online

Toshiba Corp. has been developing a small nuclear reactor for mining oil sands at the request of a firm engaged in such mining projects in Alberta Province, Canada, and aims to begin operating the reactor by 2020, it has been learned.

As the situation regarding the construction of new nuclear power plants and reactors in Japan remains unclear, Toshiba’s move will likely attract attention as an effort toward utilizing the nation’s nuclear technology in fields other than power generation.

Oil sands are sandstone deposits which contain a viscous form of petroleum, and can be used as petroleum-based fuel. Compared with oil fields, it has so far been difficult to develop oil sands. However, technological advances have led to the promotion of oil sands development in Venezuela and Canada. Canada is said to have about 100 oil sands deposits totaling about 170 billion barrels–the equivalent of about 100 years’ worth of petroleum consumption in Japan.

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Influencing Toshiba’s growth

Sales for Toshiba’s nuclear business stands at about 600 billion yen, 10 percent of the firm’s overall sales. As the firm considers its nuclear business as a core part of its future growth, Toshiba plans to increase sales to 1 trillion yen by fiscal 2017.

Currently, Toshiba is constructing eight regular reactors in the United States and China, and is expected to receive orders in the Czech Republic and Finland. The firm aims to receive orders for 39 reactors by March 2018.

While Toshiba has received orders for reactors at Oma and Higashidori nuclear power plants, both in Aomori Prefecture, construction has been suspended since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his support for building new reactors, there is still no prospect for resuming construction of these reactors.

Meanwhile, international competition for reactor orders has been intensifying as Chinese and South Korean firms increase their presence in the market. Under these circumstances, Toshiba also hopes to develop new markets by diversifying uses for nuclear reactors and enhancing its competitiveness in the industry.

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