Alcoa closing atomizer by March

37 to lose jobs at last Rockdale Operations facility
Reporter Editor

Atomizer product once powered U.S space shuttles Atomizer product once powered U.S space shuttles Alcoa has announced it is “curtailing” production of powdered aluminum at its Rockdale atomizer.

When the facility is closed—not later than the first of March, 2014, according to Jim Hodson, company spokesman— there will no longer be any aluminum products being produced at a site which once boasted the largest aluminum smelter in the United States.

That smelter was closed in 2008 and 2009. Initially a carbon plant remained in production but it was shuttered in December, 2008.

That left only the atomizer, and a small crew maintaining the facilities, including the smelter. That maintenance crew will remain after the atomizer closes, Hodson said, but the 37 atomizer employees will lose their jobs.

Since 1992, Alcoa had been the sole supplier of the aluminum powder used to propel U. S. space shuttles. The shuttle program ended in 2011.

He said the closing was related to “cost structure” factors pertaining to Alcoa’s global primary metals portfolio.

Hodson said the atomizer will continue to fulfill current contracts and will operate through early next year, probably through February, but should cease production by early March.

Alcoa is terming the situation a “curtailment” and said, like the other facilities, the atomizer will continue to be maintained against a possible re-start in the future.

The atomizer opened in 1966 and had been in almost continuous production for the past 47 years.

It had been the site of several explosions and fires, including a fatality, during its years of operation.

Two years ago, Alcoa talked to a potential customer who expressed an interest in purchasing the atomizer. Although those talks lasted several months they ended with Alcoa making a “strategic decision” not to sell.

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