Business 2.0 | Magazine Article | Features | Nuclear Spring
"Rather than decommission aging nukes -- there are 103 U.S. nuclear plants -- utilities are instead extending their lives. And that's bringing a gusher of business to Westinghouse, the nation's top supplier of nuclear technology. Last year the company booked a record $3 billion in nuclear power orders, with nearly all of that business coming from renovating existing plants. (Of the world's 438 nuclear power plants, about half rely on Westinghouse-type reactors.) This year Westinghouse is on track to post revenue of nearly $2 billion and a healthy operating profit of at least 15 percent.
Impressive as those numbers seem, they don't begin to describe one of the most improbable turnarounds in U.S. business history. A fabled industrial giant, Westinghouse produced the first electricity generator in 1886, the first commercial radio broadcast in 1920, and the first industrial atom smasher in 1937. But it was nearly out of business just five years ago, having jettisoned its home appliance brands and morphed into a media conglomerate -- CBS -- in the mid-1990s. Now the 50-year-old nuclear power business has brought the Westinghouse name back from the brink -- a fact that still astonishes the company's CEO, Steve Tritch, a mild-mannered mechanical engineer who once considered the nuclear field extinct. 'Ten years ago I had a hard time telling a 40-year-old to stay in the business,' says Tritch, who is 55. 'Today I have no problem telling any employee there's a lifetime job here.'"