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As 2015 is now well under way, the company is looking to take itself to an even higher level of success by aggressively expanding its international presence while strengthening its commitment to the American worker. In a conversation with Industry Today, Allen Hickman, Vice President of Manufacturing and Procurement, and Joy Russell, Vice President of Corporate Business Development, discuss the company’s exciting future while shedding light on the internal and external factors that drove them to where they are today. Steve Engelhardt reports.
Holtec International was founded in 1986, establishing its industry presence by producing and supplying systems for wet storage of spent nuclear fuel onsite at commercial nuclear reactors, as well as manufacturing heat exchangers, large pressure vessels, and tanks for the nuclear power and fossil industries. “The company quickly took off, and within a decade, Holtec found itself with a 100 percent market share in the U.S. with regards to wet storage of spent nuclear fuel at commercial power plants, and a significant presence globally as well,” says Russell.
New Market, New Success
As the years went on, however, the company saw the need to continue to diversify itself, despite its strong market position, both domestically and abroad. “Given the way the industry was trending, with regards to diminishing wet storage capacities here in the U.S., it seemed like a natural progression for our company to transition into the manufacturing and supply of dry storage canisters,” Russell says. It’s been nothing but continued success since then, with the company today holding a 50 percent domestic market share of dry storage for spent nuclear fuel, and a fast growing international presence as well.
The company’s rise in the dry storage markets is particularly notable, given its quick ascension in a market that is generally considered to be the global nuclear industry’s future. “Our canisters and storage modules, are interchangeable in nature,” Hickman says, adding, “Here in the U.S., there are two ways nuclear power plants are operated, either through Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR), or Boiling Water Reactors (BWR), and our systems are compatible with both.”
Outside of a dynamic system, another reason Holtec leads the field is because of their quality-based and vertically-integrated manufacturing operations in the U.S. “Our ability to control the entire manufacturing process is key to our ability to provide an economical option that is also extremely safe and secure,” says Hickman. By “controlling the entire manufacturing process”, he’s referring to Holtec’s ability to procure massive quantities of steel and carbon and subsequently manufacture their entire product from start to finish, without the need of third party services, something that is particularly important in the nuclear industry. “In the nuclear world, the most important thing is to be able to document all of your processes and procedures, and materials must be bought to specific codes and regulations,” he says, adding, “We control all of that.”
Hickman says Holtec’s established facilities in Orrville, Ohio, and Turtle Creek (Pittsburgh), Penn., also provide a proximal advantage to its clients, who instead of having to travel to Japan or China, are able to much more easily oversee the manufacturing of their orders, enabling Holtec to forge partnerships based upon reliability and transparency.
And yet, perhaps most central to all of Holtec’s success is its dedication to and reliance upon the American worker. Although U.S. manufacturing, in general, faces a skills gap in the coming decade, Holtec has been largely proactive and committed to meeting the issue head on.
“We employ over 600 individuals between our Ohio and Pittsburgh facilities, and are constantly reaching out to nearby trade and technical schools to train and hire additional local talent,” Hickman says, adding, “In one instance, we trained and tested nearly 200 welders, and although only 40 were hired for the actual position, we offered the rest the opportunity to start at other labor positions in our factory, with the ability to eventually turn it into a career.”
Working at Holtec truly is a career position, as Hickman notes “It’s an investment we’re proud to make, because, at the end of the day, the American worker is the most productive in the world, and continuing to hire and train them will fuel our competitiveness and global success.”
Setting Up For the Future
The company’s global success is extremely important to Holtec, because while the company relies upon a domestic worker, the future of its markets lie abroad. It’s one of the reasons why they recently announced that they will be opening a brand new manufacturing facility in Camden, N.J., with the expectation to initially hire 400 individuals and have operations up and running by early 2018. “Boosted by a 10-year, $260 million tax credit incentive package from the state of New Jersey, we must employee 395 workers at the location initially, but over the years that number could reach as high as 3,000,” Russell says. Supporting the U.S. Department of Energy in its mission to store spent fuel at an interim storage facility is another driver for opening their third U.S. based manufacturing facility.
Hickman adds that the Camden facility will be equipped to handle the production of much heavier duty components than at its other two locations, given its proximity to ports and, by extension, markets beyond. “One of the largest costs when building heavy equipment is the transportation of it to the ports, but now since we’re right on the water, we’ll find ourselves saving a lot in that area,” he says, adding, “However, overall, the Camden decision was shaped significantly by our acknowledgement that much of our future growth will be found overseas.” He says the shift into a more significant international presence will be coupled with an increased expansion into other markets, including power generation, refineries, and solar plants.
The expansion is a manifestation of Holtec’s company motto of being ‘A generation ahead, by design.’ “We have reached the level that we are at today because of our aggressive and resourceful mindset,” says Russell. Much of this is enabled through Holtec’s engineering center in Marlton, N.J., where all research is internally funded and tested either on-site, or down the road at a military installation in Aberdeen. “Even before 9/11, we understood that the storage of spent nuclear fuel is an extremely specific and intricate task,” Russell says, adding, “Whether it’s through missile tests to ensure the integrity of our transport and storage casks, or the development of an unprecedented, underground storage system for spent nuclear fuel, we place safety and security of spent nuclear fuel above all else.”
It’s why the company is extremely confident in its quest to greatly expand internationally. “We are already doing business in many countries around the world, including a strong presence in Ukraine,” she says, adding, “Although there is a significant war conflict occurring within that country right now, we have barely missed a beat in our operations at Chernobyl, Units 1, 2, and 3, and I think that says a lot about Holtec and its products’ quality and security.”
Taking innovation to the next level, Holtec is also in the process of developing a revolutionary small modular reactor for the nuclear industry. “Conceived by our CEO, Dr. Kris Singh, the reactor, called the SMR-160, will be about a tenth of the size of a standard nuclear reactor, meaning each and every part will be procured and produced here in the U.S.,” Hickman says, adding, “As a Holtec Inherently-Safe Modular Underground Reactor (HI-SMUR) Technology, the power generation system is engineered to provide 160MWe of safe, secure, reliable and clean energy to support the world’s growing population and energy needs.”
The company is taking charge on all fronts—from workforce to product development—and as it invests deeper into an American workforce while turning an eager eye to the blossoming international market, it seems as though Holtec is ready to ride a massive wave of success into the future.