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Nuclear Energy Market Stays Important for Valve Makers

Japan’s Nuclear Catastrophe – What Does it Mean for the Industry?

| Editor: Dominik Stephan

(Picture: Valve World Expo)
(Picture: Valve World Expo)

The disaster in the Fukushima nuclear power plant has put the renaissance of nuclear energy in the last few years into question again. Even though the world will not turn its back on nuclear energy, it can be expected that the valve industry will have to come to grips with rising security and quality demands. The valve industry reflects it current situation in the forefront of the biennial Valve World Expo 2012.

On 11 March 2011, the world held its breath. An earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale triggering a 23 meter high tsunami devastated towns and villages along a 240km coastal strip of northeast Japan. The world mourned the victims. And the world is also set for change – a new approach on security and safety issues of both conventional and nuclear power plants is underway. The valve industry expects to profit from this development, but also an increasing demand for components for renewables is expected have a positive impact on orders

Valve Industry Shows its Solidarity

Nearly 25,000 lives were claimed by the catastrophe, around half a million Japanese lost their homes and took refuge in emergency shelters. Japan’s government estimates the damages amount to 310 billion US dollars. The entire valve industry naturally also feels concerned. “This is a huge catastrophe for Japan,” states EBRO Sales Manger Dirk Meierlücke. The German valve and pumps manufacturer initiated a donation campaign as a sign of solidarity with Japan and the deep bond it feels in connection to the island state. “The people in Japan need our support,” a company representative from the Frankenthal-based company explained.

This deep bond results from a long-standing relationship. KSB founded a sales company in Japan in 1990, with a staff of six people working in Tokyo and ten in southeast Osaka. The company mainly manufactures products for Japan’s industrial and maritime sector. Luckily, the company‘s Japanese staff survived the catastrophe without any loss. The same is the case for the employees of Japanse valve manufacturer Kitz working in Nagasaka and Ina.

Steel Market Hardly Hit

Swagelok, a US maker of fluid system products, also showed its shock. “We stand prepared to offer all the support we can to our customers in Japan,” said president and CEO Arthur F. Anton. The company was thankful that none of its 350 Japanese employees were missing or seriously hurt, issuing the statement “most sites didn’t suffer any larger damages.” Demand for Swagelok’s products and solutions is very likely to rise when repairs begin on Japan’s infrastructure. “The delivery of components, parts and services our customers need have our highest priority,” said the CEO. Solidarity is being shown worldwide by the valve and fittings community.

Yet the Japanese economy is taking a hit, despite the fact that not all plants were impacted by the earthquake’s devastating effects. Both the costs for reconstruction and the energy squeeze are a strain on the struggling economy. Delivery problems in Japan’s export sector are another factor which is being felt by neighbouring states in Southeast Asia.

On a global scale, the dip in Japan’s economy has a marginal effect. This is also the case for the steel market, on which valve makers are highly dependent. “At the moment, we see a shortfall of around 11.5 million tons of steel from Japan,” says Benedikt Niemeyer, CEO of German company Schmolz + Bickenbach. With a worldwide production volume of 1.2 billion tons he says “this deficit can be economically neglected.” The company does not expect any dramatic price effects on resources.

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