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Toshiba to wind up UK nuclear power venture

By James Sillars, business reporter

Toshiba has confirmed plans to wind up its UK nuclear venture behind the development of the planned Moorside power station in Cumbria.

The struggling Japanese engineering firm revealed its NuGen vehicle was to be shut down early next year as part of renewed efforts to shore up its finances following its disastrous acquisition of US nuclear energy firm Westinghouse.

Westinghouse was placed in bankruptcy protection last year amid billions of dollars worth of losses, forcing Toshiba to raise funds by selling off its prized chip-making business.

The troubles at Westinghouse, which was due to provide three reactors for the £15bn Moorside project, prompted a French investor to pull out of NuGen.

The logo of Japan's Toshiba Corp. is displayed at the company's headquarters in Tokyo on January 27, 2017. Toshiba said on January 27 it will spin off its memory chip business, following reports that the vast conglomerate is planning to sell a stake in the unit to repair its battered balance sheet
Image: Toshiba is planning to shrink is vast array of international interests

That left Toshiba having to buy up its stake and assume all the risk.

:: Toshiba warns its survival is at risk

The Japanese firm had been trying to sell NuGen, with the UK government also seeking new investors, but Toshiba admitted defeat on Thursday.

"After considering the additional costs entailed in continuing to operate NuGen, Toshiba recognises that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, and has resolved to take steps to wind-up NuGen," it said.

It added that it expected to begin the winding up by process by 31 January and to record a loss of just over £100m.

It was unclear how many jobs were at risk.

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The decision is hardly a surprise given Toshiba's long-standing financial woes but it still represents a major blow to the government's efforts for mixed low carbon energy provision.

It was yet to comment on the development.

Toshiba's announcement formed part of a profit warning to the market that saw previous forecasts for operating profits in the 2018/19 financial year slashed by 14%.

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It said that in addition to NuGen being shut down it would also exit a liquefied natural gas business in the US.

Japanese media reported that up to 7,000 jobs could be lost over the next five years as Toshiba prepared to publish a new business plan.

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Dark mode is easier on your eyes—and battery

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Why user experience designers are going gray.

Dark mode is an increasingly popular accessibility option, from Twitter to Reddit to MacOS. But achieving the perfect grayscale site isn’t easy.

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The curious case of the electric carving knife

The Black + Decker ComfortGrip 9-inch electric knife.

Black + Decker

Electric knives are cheesy antiques, right? You have to plug them in, they’re noisy, and seem ridiculous when compared to a traditional knife, especially if you own a quality tool that you keep sharp. They have an old-school vibe, but not good old-school. More like: an unnecessary gadget that Mad Men-type ad execs would hawk.

But a good electric knife can do one thing really well: it will cut roast meat cleanly, leaving a tidy little strip of skin on top of each slice. In other words—they are silly, but if you’re ever going to use one, it’s Thanksgiving and other occasions like it. The moments when you want things to be pretty.

Last year, staffers at Cook’s Illustrated magazine—the magazine of the well-respected America’s Test Kitchen—tried out four electric knives. The results surprised the publication’s editor-in-chief.

“I was super skeptical when they started that testing,” says Dan Souza, editor of Cook’s Illustrated. “It’s just kind of this relic from the 50s and 60s.” One problem is the noise; they can be “as loud as a lawnmower.”

“I would say that they’re not taken especially seriously,” he adds.

But one model stood out for them: the Black + Decker ComfortGrip 9-inch electric knife, which is $20. An electric knife has two side-by-side blades that move back and forth quickly, meaning that you don’t need to saw manually—you just push down. It looks like a power tool you’d find in a wood shop, not a kitchen cabinet.

“You can get a very clean cut that way,” he says. “That winning one did do a really nice job of keeping a perfect little strip of crispy skin on every single slice.”

To get the most out of an electric knife, first separate the chunks of breast meat from the cooked bird—a task for which Souza recommends just using a regular chef's knife. Then, place meat on a cutting board, skin up, and use the electric knife to cut it across the grain.

electric knife

The knife breaks down into multiple pieces.

Black + Decker

“And that’s really where I think the electric knife excels, with no tearing of the skin, and really, really clean slices,” Souza says. The tool would also come in handy with a cooked piece of roast beef, or pork roast.

A good one can help people out who don’t frequently cook, or carve, a turkey. “It does solve a potentially pretty big problem for home cooks,” Souza says. “And there’s the added pressure of you’re wanting it to be this gorgeous thing on Thanksgiving.”

David Bruno, a chef and associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America, agrees that an electric knife can come in handy when slicing a bird. “For someone who may have a drawer full of knives, what I generally find—unless they’re really a knife aficionado—most of those knives are really dull,” he says. A dull knife will rip the skin, but in this context, the electric knife could produce nice, tidy slices.

“In general, we don’t use a lot of them,” he adds. But they do have a niche. “People that are making food to display for competing, that really need an accurate slice, have been known to use these knives before.” Some competitive barbecue cookers use them to cut their meats—but it’s a controversial topic that has spawned countless arguments.

Of course, you don’t need one. “I still really believe that if you have a super sharp knife, and you take really great care of it, you can absolutely carve a turkey with great success,” Souza says.

Not sold on the idea of an electric knife? That’s fine. The test kitchen at Saveur—one of Popular Science’s sister publications—rounded up some blades to consider for your kitchen. You don’t even need to plug them in. One of the knives on their list is a carver that’s only $7. Want more choices? At the higher end is this $340 tool from Town Cutler, and in the middle is a $140 option. Bon appetit.

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NASA reveals Mars 2020 rover landing site

After a five-year search NASA has chosen the Jezero Crater as the landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission.

The crater was selected from more than 60 candidate locations which were studied, analysed and debated by the mission team and planetary science community.

The US space agency's mission to place a next-generation rover on the Martian surface is scheduled to launch in July 2020.

It will examine the planet for signs covering whether it was ever habitable and analyse the surface and beneath for ancient microbial life.

NASA has announced the rover will land in the Jezero crater. Pic: NASA
Image: NASA has announced the rover will land in the Jezero Crater. Pic: NASA

"The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology," said NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen.

"Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionise how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life," added Mr Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the agency's science mission directorate.

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The Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator.

Known as Isidis Planitia, the impact basin presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer, according to NASA.

The planet Mars taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope when the planet was 50 million miles from Earth
Image: NASA has selected one of the oldest impact basins on Mars to land the rover

"Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45km) crater was once home to an ancient river delta and is a prime location to have preserved ancient organic molecules and evidence of microbial life.

"The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive," said Ken Farley.

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"But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies," added Mr Farley, a project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Jezero Crater's selection is still "dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing" according to NASA, and a final report will be given to NASA HQ towards the end of 2019.

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Last week in tech: Underground tunnels, sad Facebook execs, and Black Friday prep

Technology

Black Friday is almost here. Read this in your tent while you wait for the doorbusters.

Catch up on your tech news while you're waiting for cheap Tupperware.

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Russian agencies fight over private US satellites

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and its cash-strapped space agency Roscosmos are in conflict over a $1bn contract to launch private satellites on behalf of a US company.

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