Monday, May 05, 2008

More on GE Hitachi

Last week, we reported on the agreement GE Hitachi made with monogram North Carolina to hire 900 more workers, retain their current staff of about 2300 and spend over $700 million expanding their corporate headquarters - which presumably they'd have to do to fit in 900 more bodies.

Later that same day, GE Hitachi indicated some of what they are going to do with those hires and that money:

Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a subsidiary of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), has announced it has selected GEH's Wilmington headquarters site for a potential commercial uranium enrichment facility. The planned GEH plant would result in the creation of hundreds of new technical, operational and support jobs at the site between now and 2012.

"Hundreds," here, is not the full 900 touted by the state, but it's a good start. The uranium enrichment facility is described thusly:

The cutting-edge laser enrichment isotope separation technology allows GEH to become further integrated in the nuclear fuel cycle; already, Wilmington-based Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas, a joint venture of GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, is involved in the fuel cycle. [Global Nuclear Fuel's] site currently receives low enriched uranium, which is then used to fabricate fuel bundles for commercial nuclear power plants. The commercial GLE enrichment facility could potentially become a supplier of low enriched uranium to the Wilmington GNF fabrication facility.

Note that this Wilmington is in North Carolina - yes, GE Hitachi headquarters - not Delaware.

Feels a bit like GE Hitachi has subsidiaries to keep other subsidiaries busy supplying materials to yet other subsidiaries, the business version of a perpetual motion device. But it creates an ecosystem that gives GE Hitachi a marked competitive advantage even while they wager on the efficacy of nuclear energy going forward. Pretty safe bet, we'd say, plus it allows a cushion for the company should it misjudge what the market needs. (GLE is currently creating a demo project to decide whether to go forward with a commercial plant.)

We've talked about the benefits of the nuclear renaissance to the economy, but it's especially pleasing to see it start to take root in communities. GE Hitachi stands to do much good in Wilmington and New Hanover County, perhaps fathering an extension of North Carolina's so-called Research Triangle in the Raleigh-Durham area to their neck of the woods, good salaries and all.

We seem to be on a bit of a GE Hitachi jag lately, and they are a member of NEI, so suspicions of log rolling acknowledged and, hey!, denied. The company has lately embodied the themes we've been tracing as nuclear energy springs back to life and has been interesting to test against those themes. So far so good, but maybe we'll see what Entergy or AREVA's been up to lately.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the meantime, nuclear is still a very small percentage of GE's overall business. I wonder if GE's gas and wind mill turbine divisions are more lucrative than GE's nuclear divisions? Do they require 25.7 million from state govt, or continued DOE / GNEP funding for an idea that has never been built - in this case, ESBWR? Do they lose big projects like the South Texas ABWR?

Areva is an all-nuclear company. While they've got their problems, as a company they are completely committed to nuclear energy. They are doing the digital I&C upgrade at Oconee. Their Teleperm product line got an NRC SER back in the late 1990s. They are building EPRs abroad (although Finland is behind schedule and over budget).

GE still can't get Lungmen done in Taiwan and its approach to use the ABWR I&C SQA program for ESBWR was a dismal failure. Yup, Areva's I&C SQA program leaves something to be desired, BUT Areva has a proven product line. GE has old 1980s vintage digital NUMAC, and still can't get the LaSalle digital rod control system done. Requirements traceability suck and the utility, Exelon, keeps on changing what it wants - requirements creep. And GE-Hitachi treats the Salem Mark VIe digital product line as a separate company even though the guys at Salem were GE before anyone could spell ESBWR. Talk about poisoning team work! And ESBWR is a variation on a late 1970s, early 1980s theme of SBWR - a plant with no recirc pumps, just natural recirc - that some two and a half decades later STILL hasn't been built.

Nope, Areva for all its troubles is all nuclear and GE is all talk. This laser enrichment facility is a good thing, but it's a drop in the bucket for GE as a whole, and until GE becomes ONE company completely committed to nuclear, then ESBWR (and even ABWR by GE) won't succeed. GE medical with its SQA screwup with digital I&C as cited by the FDA when it lost requirements traceability clearly shows that GE has become too big and too arrogant and too diversified. It needs focus. And it has to stop transferring medical division dropouts to ESBWR.

If the Maryland governor and Constellation have their way, then Areva will succeed where GE cannot.

GE's investment in natural gas and wind is such a joke. Short term profits, but in the long term, people need reliable energy. That means nuclear. So GE has to stop feeding at the public trough and invest its own money, show its own commitment.

By the way, why doesn't GE use ESBWR as part of its TV ecomagination advertising? There was a big Wilmington announcement some time ago that ESBWR is a part of ecomagination, but all I see on those commercials are the twirling blades of bird killers that generate zero watts on hot, windless summer days when electricity is most needed.

If wind is so darn great, then why don't cargo and passenger ships at sea still use sails?

Anonymous said...

I would like to see someone from GEH that believes in the future of GEH to respond to these comments. This is not the first time I've seen negative comments regarding integrity and quality.

I never see any positive posts from GEH employees in this forum.

As a GEH employee it makes me wonder if other GEH employees feel the same way as anonymous writes.

Anonymous said...

To the 2nd anon, this is the 1st. What exactly did I write that is incorrect? Did GE seel the rights of ABWR to Toshiba? Yes! Is Toshiba and Westinghouse doing ABWR at South Texas instead of GEH? Yes! Has the ESBWR design ever been built? No! Did GE screw up software requirements traceability in medical? Yes! Did GE try to de-nuke itself in the late 80s, early 90s? Yes! Did GE try to close the San Jose Office, and now stop the closure once Areva started sucking up GE employees? Yes! Does GE use ESBWR or ABWR in its ecomagination commercials? No! Is GE reliant on funding from North Carolina and DOE? Yes! Is GE Capitol investing in GE ESBWR / ABWR? No! Hey, the answers to the questions speak for themselves. Prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2 to Anon 3

Don't be so defensive. I don't disagree with you on the points you made.

I was hoping someone at GEH would affirm a GEH commitment to nuclear power. It would be nice to see a response from someone in GEH management. Your comments make me wonder if GEH management reads anything from this forum; and if they don't - then why not.

I am hoping and want to believe that GEH management will learn from the weaknesses you have identified.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, last Anon! This is the 1st Anon. I hope GEH gets committed to nuclear. It'd be a shame for the world to have only PWRs. Maybe NEI can communicate these concerns to GEH and get their management really committed to nuclear, and all the NRC regs, especially on digital I&C bceause it won't be passive safety systems that hold up licensing a new nuke; it'll be digital I&C because the NRC is paranoid over common mode / common cause failure and cyber security.

How about it, NEI? Can't you guys talk some sense into GEH?

Anonymous said...

One last comment - if you don't think there are problems at GEH / GNF, then just read NRC IN 2008-08 and review NRC News Release:

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2008/08-004ii.html.

Here's the link to the NRC IN:

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/gen-comm/info-notices/2008/ML0806504920.pdf?

I'm not making this up.

Anonymous said...

Well, on a positive note, Commissioner Lyons said good things about GE-Hitachi and Granite Services International at his recent speech at the Cape Fear Community College. Here's the link:

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/speeches/2008/s-08-021.html

(Maintaining a Competent and Dedicated Workforce)

See - I can be positive, too!