ATG Inc. of Fremont, Calif., is a provider of quality waste solution technologies that now has something no one else has: a state-of-the-art method for handling low-level mixed waste. This company – in business for almost a quarter of a century and a public company for the past two years – offers volume- and mass-reduction technologies for both mixed waste and for low-level radioactivity waste that are safe and environmentally beneficial, and that are competitively priced vs. incinerator ash and non-thermal waste handling. Now, however, ATG has raised the waste-handling technology bar even higher.
ATG has acquired the licensing rights to use a proprietary plasma arc technology developed by Integrated Environmental Technologies, LLC, specifically designed to treat low-level mixed waste. This firm’s plasma arc technology is being integrated with ATG technologies to form the GASVIT™ system, which will be used in ATG’s mixed-waste thermal processing facility. That facility, an addition to its plant in Richland, Wash., will begin using the process early in December.
“We’ve already won more than $70 million in contracts just for this facility,” says Doreen Chiu, chairman and chief executive officer of ATG. “This is a major breakthrough for this company. We now offer the best available technology for the treatment of low-level mixed waste.”
Contract for Success
That $70 million figure by itself shows just how long a way ATG has come since its founding in 1976. From its first day of business, the company has provided services related to the management of low-level radioactive waste and, later, low-level mixed waste. It works on a contract basis for customers in both the private sector (medical facilities, nuclear power plants, research institutions) and the government (the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy). Doreen Chiu and her husband, Frank Chiu, now executive vice president, acquired ATG in 1984 and took it public in 1998. For its most recent fiscal year, ending Dec. 31, 1999, ATG clocked in revenues of $60,662,000 – a figure that puts an added perspective on that $70 million in contracts from the new process.
The GASVIT™ system works by feeding materials into a process chamber, where the organic materials are destroyed in a flameless process, resulting in a glass material. GASVIT™ can reduce the volume of the input waste by a factor of 200 to 1, and the mass of the input waste by a factor of up to 96 percent. GASVIT™ “reduces mixed waste into glass for long-term storage,” says Chiu. “Glass is thought to be the best option because it’s non-leachable, unlike ash. The process has been approved by the EPA (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and by state environmental protection departments.”
The GASVIT™ process is located at the Richland site, which measures a total of 45 acres. ATG also has plants in Oak Ridge, Tenn., a 20-acre site that includes low-level radioactive waste resin treatment operations; and one in Columbia, S.C., a 13-acre location used for storage and maintenance of equipment used in wet waste treatment. ATG numbers approximately 400 employees.
Public and Private
As is evident from the substantial contract backlog Chiu cited, the GASVIT™ process offers the potential for substantial growth for ATG in the near and far future. The diversity of the company’s customer base provides another avenue for future expansion. “Utility power plants and private-sector factories are among our customers,” says Chiu. “We can also treat waste for nuclear power plants with our Resin Decon Technology. We are presently the only one in the mixed-waste business that can provide comprehensive solutions. In the long run, we expect to have both government and private-sector growth because of our technologies and experience.”
ATG acquired certain resins processing technologies in 1998, when it bought certain assets and business lines from Molten Metal Technologies. The company subsequently integrated these assets into its Richland facility, and Chiu regards this as yet another prospect for ATG’s future growth.
Technology is not the only area of future growth for ATG; new territories also offer opportunities. “We see expansion possibilities into the Pacific Rim markets,” Chiu says. “Taiwan is one area, and it’s never had any waste treatment except for storage. But we got a small contract there last year. In low-level radioactive waste, China is building eight new nuclear plants and 16 operating units, and they look to foreign technology for waste treatment. One unit will be completed next year, the others in 2004. Korea is another possibility. We sold a reverse osmosis system there last year, to Korea Electric Company.”
Organized for Service
Still, customer service remains one of the two prime drivers of ATG’s business – and the company has ingrained customer service into its organization. ATG consists of two groups: the Fixed Facilities Group manages the company’s plants, but also does nuclear-related work at customer sites in which waste is sent to the facilities for processing prior to disposal. The Field Engineering Group provides construction management and hazardous waste handling at customer sites, primarily for the Defense Department and for private industry.
The other prime driver behind ATG’s success is its people. Chiu flatly states, “Our employees have to be happy. We have good communication with the employees, who understand why the company is doing what it’s doing. We need also to ensure the safety of our environment and ensure job security. Most of all, our overall goal is to keep employees on course with the same goals as the company overall, and we do this through a variety of rewards.”
Those company goals, as Chiu explains, revolve around the customer. “We have grown from $2 million in sales in 1984 to $60 million today through hard work and our unique technologies,” she says, “and our company’s uniqueness is due to our open-mindedness in finding practical technologies that offer the best solutions for customers. My overall philosophy is that the customer has to be No. 1.”