FirstEnergy joins nuclear fabricator to repurpose Canonsburg facility

FirstEnergy Corp. wanted a larger, more centrally located shop for its electricians, mechanics and other repairmen. Areva Inc., a nuclear energy services supplier, wanted to expand its production of storage casks that hold used nuclear fuel.

Meanwhile, Custom Nuclear Fabricators LLC, a maker of such storage tanks, was hoping to move into a 300,000-square-foot section of a sprawling facility in Canonsburg formerly occupied by GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Custom Fabrication Plant, which closed last October. 

It was a match for all three ventures. 

In an official ribbon-cutting and facility tour on Thursday, FirstEnergy, Areva and CNF officials outlined plans to resurrect operations at the plant and bring about 170 energy jobs to Washington County. 

“This story is about how businesses collaborate on maintaining high-quality jobs,” Mr. Quinlan said.

FirstEnergy poured $1.3 million into their section and CNF spent $1.6 million on theirs. 

Under the plan, FirstEnergy and CNF share the space. Expanding 200,000 square feet, CNF’s fabrication operations will churn out about 50 dry storage steel canisters a year — about one every week, said CNF President Peter Quinlan.

Those canisters are under contract with Areva, a Charlotte, N.C.-based subsidiary of the French nuclear energy giant, which markets them to nuclear generators across the country. Areva currently has a contract to sell some canisters to FirstEnergy’s Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport and Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo, Ohio — a point that sweetened the deal for Areva to select a site in southwestern Pennsylvania as a production facility.

“It made sense to be located in this area so we could service FirstEnergy,” said Gary Mignogna, president and CEO of Areva. The company’s only other U.S. fabrication facility is in North Carolina.

Mr. Mignogna said Areva also was attracted by the fact that there was an existing facility with a proven track record of producing the canisters.

“When you’re building nuclear components, there’s nothing more important than a skilled workforce,” Mr. Mignogna said. 

Location also was a factor for FirstEnergy. The company plans to use its part of the facility to house its Central Machine Shop and Mobile Maintenance Headquarters, both of which service FirstEnergy’s fleet of electric power plants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

The Akron-based energy company previously operated its machine shop, which repairs plant equipment, out of a small facility in southeast Ohio, and its mobile maintenance crews were spread out at multiple locations. 

The Canonsburg facility is within a two-hour drive of seven of FirstEnergy’s power plants and allows room for future expansion. FirstEnergy will employ 45 people at the site, while CNF hopes to have 125 workers, company officials said. 

Daniel Moore:, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

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