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Nuclear Energy Insight

Spring 2012—It’s hard to pick up a newspaper without reading about outsourcing to India, fair trade with China or the struggles of Detroit. All are connected to global shifts in manufacturing.

Insight Spring 2012 HoltecA nimble new breed of businesses is revitalizing American manufacturing by keeping factory jobs in the United States. One is Holtec International, a manufacturer of products for the nuclear energy industry, including reactor components, fuel pool racks and dry storage canisters for used nuclear fuel. Holtec also provides storage solutions for low-level radioactive waste and is entering the small modular reactor business.

Keeping the nuclear energy manufacturing base here in America is a key part of the company’s strategy.

“We are bullish on U.S. manufacturing. We simply insist on it,” said Pierre Oneid, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Holtec International. “We truly believe in it, in terms of keeping the manufacturing know-how here. We are able to compete from the United States and it has worked for us.”

In fact, Oneid said that keeping manufacturing in the United States has been good for business. In the past five years, Holtec has quadrupled its manufacturing floor space to 750,000 square feet. In the same period, the company’s nuclear manufacturing workforce has grown from 130 to 500 people, with 350 in Pittsburgh and the rest in Ohio.

Oneid said that this expansion is just the start. Holtec’s supply chain creates a ripple effect to create jobs at other companies that don’t show up in Holtec’s annual reports.

“We also subcontract some of the [projects] that come into our factory with probably over 1,000 people involved,” Oneid said.

Holtec is so committed to American manufacturing that it plans to build its new small reactor design in the United States. To maximize the ripple effect for jobs across the supply chain, the reactor is being designed to require American-made components.

“We are designing our entire plant to manufacture our small modular reactor to be 100 percent sourced from components made in the United States,” Oneid said. “We can go overseas—buy a pump here or there—but we will not be forced to go overseas.”

Oneid said support from U.S. government representatives has been significant to expand Holtec’s business in global markets.

“The support we’ve been getting from the ambassadors, the embassies and the State Department has been immense, especially in China and Ukraine,” said Oneid. “They have been tremendously helpful in us obtaining [contracts] overseas and exporting U.S. products.”

But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Oneid said that the biggest hurdle facing Holtec’s export business are regulations governing the export of nuclear energy technologies. The Energy Department has proposed revisions in the regulations that govern the provision of unclassified nuclear technology services to other countries. The so-called Part 810 regulations would include Holtec’s core business: storage of used nuclear fuel.

“The proposed rules would slow us down and hamper our reach in key countries,” Oneid said. “We would face uncertainties in certain markets.”

In addition to adhering to the 810 regulations, the length of time required to receive a license for a new product from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been a challenge for winning new business, Oneid said. In one case in China, the slow pace of the U.S. licensing process for a new nuclear fuel storage technology meant that Holtec lost out to a competitor.

Oneid said that focusing on innovating and building technologies here and selling them abroad can only succeed if the U.S. government and companies move forward aggressively.

“The global race is on. And the first to market is a major contributing factor to success,” said Oneid.

Read more articles in Nuclear Energy Insight and Insight Web Extra.