US major nuclear group Westinghouse Electric exited bankruptcy protection at the start of this month, when its takeover by Brookfield Business Partners came into effect. Brookfield, which is listed on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges and is itself a subsidiary of the Brookfield Asset Management group (also listed on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges and which has assets worth $285-billion under its management), acquired 100% of the embattled US company. The take-over, which cost Brookfield $4.6-billion, was originally announced in January.
“We are pleased to have completed this acquisition, which diversifies our business into global infrastructure services,” affirmed Brookfield Business Partners CEO Cyrus Madon. “We look forward to bringing our expertise and support to position Westinghouse for continued success as a leader in its field. We see strong prospects for the business, leveraging the deep knowledge and experience of its employees to drive excellence in client services and innovation.”
“The close of this transaction marks an exciting milestone for Westinghouse as we have successfully emerged from Chapter 11 [bankruptcy protection] and continue to navigate a significant transformation that positions us for long-term sustainable success,” assured company president and CEO José Emeterio Gutiérrez. “With the support of Brookfield, Westinghouse will continue to build on its legacy of leading the nuclear industry. Our focus is on strengthening the business, capitalising on our global footprint and excelling in client service and innovation.”
Westinghouse filed for protection in March 2017, after suffering more than $9-billion in losses and nearly collapsing. The nuclear reactor and power plant design and construction company spent almost 17 months reorganising itself under bankruptcy protection. The crisis at Westinghouse caused South Carolina State electricity utility companies Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas to stop construction of two new reactors at the VC Summer nuclear power plant (which had, and still has, one operational reactor, which started commercial generation in 1984 and should operate until 2042).
However, work on two new reactors at Vogtle nuclear power plant (belonging to Georgia Power) continued, although Westinghouse’s bankruptcy did reportedly cause some complications. These two new reactors (which will join two existing reactors) should now be commissioned in late 2021 and late 2022. Outside the US, Westinghouse operations seemed to have continued with little or no interruption, particularly in China.
Westinghouse developed and built the world’s first commercial pressurised water reactor (PWR) in 1957, and the technology developed by the company forms the basis for about 50% of the nuclear power plants operating in the world today. (The first nuclear power plant to generate electricity for a national grid was at Obninsk, in Russia, in 1954; this was, however, very small – about 5 MW output – and a totally different design concept to the PWR. The world’s first full-scale commercial nuclear power plant was at Calder Hall, in the UK, commissioned in 1956.)
Westinghouse Electric was separated from its parent Westinghouse Group and then sold to British Nuclear Fuels in 1999. The UK company subsequently sold Westinghouse Electric to Japan’s Toshiba in 2005 for nearly $2-billion.