PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s the news some 4,500 employees of Westinghouse in the Pittsburgh region feared was coming.
Early Wednesday morning, Toshiba, the Japanese parent company of Westinghouse, says its U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Co. filed for bankruptcy protection.
It comes after an earlier public apology by Toshiba.
“As it was explained, I sincerely apologize to our shareholders and all other stakeholders for any concern or inconvenience caused by issues,” said Toshiba CEO Satoshi Tsunakawa.
Toshiba has apologized a lot lately, admitting inflating profits 30 percent by $1.2 billion and then acknowledging billions lost in the construction of nuclear power plants by Westinghouse.
Nine years ago, KDKA money editor Jon Delano interviewed then Westinghouse CEO Dr. Aris Candris who was upbeat, describing the nuclear work based here.
“We basically do the design of the plants here and we project manage these huge projects — these are multi-billion dollar, multi-projects — they are project managed out of here,” said Candris. “So all the core resources that are responsible for the engineering and construction of these plants are done out of Pittsburgh.”
Back then, nuclear energy was in a resurgence — a clean and cheaper way to replace higher priced and dirtier fossil fuel.
Two companies in Georgia and South Carolina contracted with Westinghouse to construct four nuclear plants.
But those projects got mired in cost over-runs totaling $6.3 billion and putting the project three years behind schedule.
Whatever happens, Toshiba pledges to complete those facilities
“As for the eight plants we are currently working on, the four plants in the United States and the four in China, we’ll continue these projects while closely monitoring risks,” said Tsunakawa in February.
Toshiba might also be open to selling Westinghouse and sources tell KDKA there is a Pittsburgh-based buyer with international financing, but no deal yet.
If Westinghouse disappears, the United States — industry insiders tell KDKA — will lose its leadership in nuclear design and engineering to countries like China, South Korea and France.
Part of the problem is that foreign governments embrace their nuclear power companies while the U.S.-government is hands off and sometimes even antagonistic.
How this plays out — and whether these jobs remain in Pittsburgh — is unclear.