Westinghouse buys into Japanese fuel maker

30 April 2009

Westinghouse Electric Company is to buy a 52% stake in Japanese nuclear fuel manufacturer Nuclear Fuel Industries Ltd (NFI) for $100 million, the company has announced.

Westinghouse is making the acquisition through a share transfer agreement with Furukuwa Electric Co and Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. The deal, which will give Westinghouse Electric, part of the Toshiba Group, a foothold in the Japanese nuclear fuel market, is expected to be finalized in May.

Joe Belechak, senior vice president of the Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel business unit, said the deal would "significantly enhance Westinghouse's commitment and support to the Japanese market and also expands our global position in the PWR and BWR fuel business." Westinghouse already has fuel manufacturing capabilities in the USA, UK and Sweden.

NFI was established in 1972 and supplies fuel for both pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs), and claims to have supplied fuel to nearly all of Japan's nuclear power plants. It operates two plants, a 284 tU per year PWR fuel plant at Kumitori, and a plant at Tokaimura with a capacity of 250 tU per year for BWR fuel and also 400 kgU per year for high temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel. Between them, the two plants have manufactured over 22,700 fuel assemblies for Japan's PWRs and BWRs over their operating lives. NFI is also involved in a project to design MOX fuel for French nuclear company Areva to manufacture for Japanese power plants.

Although NFI is billed in Westinghouse's press release as Japan's sole producer of nuclear fuel for both BWRs and PWRs, Mistubishi Nuclear Fuel Co (MNF) also operates a fabrication plant for light water reactor fuels at Tokaimura. Areva and Mitsubishi struck a deal in 2008 to grow the existing Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel company into an integrated nuclear fuel supplier bringing together design, manufacturing and fuel sales. The new company is due to be established in the first half of this year and will be able to produce PWR, BWR, HTR and MOX fuel assemblies. Areva will take a 30% interest in the restructured company, with the remainder held by various Mitsubishi companies.

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