According to an article posted on Daily Yomiuri Online titled Toshiba near deal to produce nuclear plant parts in Russia there has been a lot of progress made towards an agreement between Toshiba and Atomprom, the Russian nuclear energy monopoly company. One result of the agreement might be the establishment of a joint venture factory in Russia that will manufacture large components for nuclear power plants, including steam generators, steam turbines, and perhaps even pressure vessels.
On one level, this would be a good thing for the world. As frequent readers of Atomic Insights will know, there is simply not enough large component capacity in the world for all of the new nuclear power plant projects that are on the books. Adding new factories in places where there is a wealth of technical expertise for building large, high quality components is going to help ensure that supply bottlenecks do not slow the needed progress of nuclear plant construction.
On another level, this development disturbs my jingoistic American values. Toshiba purchased Westinghouse early this year after a long negotiating period at a premium price tag. There has been much excitement about the purchase and the prospects for new employment in the Pittsburgh region near Westinghouse’s US headquarters. Though there will be a large number of jobs added there, there is a distinct possibility that those jobs might be fewer than originally hope for and that the longevity of the jobs might not be as long as some people imagine.
Russian nuclear engineers and technicians are very well educated in math and science, but they work at pay scales that are far below those common in the US. As Westinghouse technology, developed over many years, gets transferred to lower production cost areas, I fear an additional loss of competitiveness for American manufacturing.
As a former submarine officer, I also have some misgivings about the whole arrangement of Toshiba, Russia, and Westinghouse technology. Many years ago, there was a sale by Toshiba of a key manufacturing technology called a five-axis milling machine. That sale, worth only a few million dollars to Toshiba, made life for American submariners significantly more difficult. I will leave it at that – Google can help you find more details.
Oh what the heck – here is a link that you might find interesting Toshiba Sale: 3 Admit Roles from the NY Times Archives dated September 11, 1987.