News from the Tennessee Valley Business

Japan has a major presence in Decatur

Japan is a major player in Decatur’s economy, and Morgan County Economic Development Association President Jeremy Nails is headed there for an economic conference Oct. 10. He’ll be one of 40 from the state — including Gov. Bob Riley — to make the trip.

Four Japan-based companies have a presence in Decatur: Daikin America Inc., Toray Carbon Fibers America Inc, Toray Fluorofibers Inc. and Mitsui-owned MiTech Steel Co. Combined, the companies employ more than 500 in Decatur.

The 65 Japanese companies with operations in Alabama employ 14,000.

Japan has more companies in Alabama than any other country, and it is the state’s fourth largest export market.

ULA to Jupiter

United Launch Alliance was awarded a $190 million contract by NASA for the agency’s unmanned Juno mission to the planet Jupiter.

The contract covers launch services for an Atlas V rocket slated to take off in 2010.

The Juno probe is to arrive at Jupiter in August 2016.

ULA also won a $124 million contract to launch a satellite for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission in July 2011 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. ULA officials expect production of the Atlas V rockets to begin in Decatur sometime next year.

On Oct. 17, a Decatur-made Delta II will launch from Florida with a GPS satellite on board.

NRC looks skyward

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant stores most of its radioactive spent fuel in above-ground pools.

The National Academy of Sciences said the pools are a prime target for terrorists.

A commercial aircraft could breach the pools and trigger a Chernobyl-scale disaster, some NAS scientists fear.

NAS says the solution is relatively simple: Move the spent fuel to above-ground casks as soon as possible, rather than letting it accumulate in the vulnerable pools.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected the NAS suggestion, but last week announced it will seek comment on a proposed rule to “avoid or mitigate the effects of a large commercial aircraft impact” at reactor sites. If adopted, though, the rule will apply only to reactors built in the future.

Complicating the issue was a report Thursday by the Energy Department suggesting that the national spent-fuel repository planned at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is unlikely to be complete even by 2017.

Most expected a repository to open soon when TVA built Browns Ferry in 1974.

Speculative investments

No confirmation yet, but the word is that Mellow Mushroom is opening a restaurant next to Chick Fil-A, on the old Redstone Federal Credit Union property near the mall. The chain has 10 locations in Alabama, the closest ones in Hoover and Birmingham.

The Birmingham restaurant has great pizza; the hoagies and calzones are huge and tasty.

Most of their restaurants serve beer, and have Wi-Fi Internet access.

Contact Eric Fleischauer at

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Eric Fleischauer
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