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Soviet Union

METALLURGY

Soviet industrial plans through the year 2000 have emphasized greater variety and higher quality in metals production to keep heavy industry competitive with the West. But the machinery and production systems available to Soviet metallurgists in 1989 showed no signs of improving the inconsistent record the industry had established in meeting such goals. Following the Stalinist pattern, great success in some areas was hampered by breakdown in others. In the late 1980s, escape from this dilemma seemed no more likely than in earlier years.

Role of Metallurgy

Since the 1970s, the Soviet Union has led the world in the production of iron, steel, and rolled metals. In 1987 it produced about 162 million tons of steel, 114 million tons of rolled metal, and 20 million tons of steel pipe. Each of these figures was an increase of more than 2.5 times over those of 1960. Metallurgy has been the largest and fastest growing branch of Soviet industry, and metals supply remained vital to growth in virtually all other branches of industry. But yearly production increases were becoming more difficult because the cost of raw materials rose consistently in the 1980s, especially for metals such as molybdenum, nickel, magnesium, and rare earth metals, which were in increasing demand for high-quality steel alloys.

In the mid-1980s, the metallurgy industry was not meeting its goals for supplying high-quality finished metal to the manufacturing industries. Those industries were demanding higher-quality and stronger metals for new applications, such as high-pressure pipelines for oil and gas, high-capacity dump trucks and excavators, industrial buildings with large roof spans, corrosion-resistant pipe for the chemical industry, coated and treated rolled metals, and steel with high conductivity for electrical transformers. As military equipment became more sophisticated, it too required improved quality and performance from metal products. On the development side, advances in lightmetal alloys using aluminum, magnesium, and titanium did provide materials for military aircraft and missiles that were among the best in the world.

Data as of May 1989