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Soviet Union

Metallurgy Planning and Problems

Plans for the metallurgical industry for the 1990s stressed rebuilding older steel plants, vastly increasing the volume of continuous steel casting, and replacing open-hearth furnaces with oxygen or electric furnaces. In the period through the year 2000, a projected 52 percent of investment was to go for new equipment. This degree of investment would be a drastic turnaround because from 1981 to 1985 five times as much money was spent on equipment repair as on equipment purchase. Furthermore, to make highly pure steel, economical removal of sulfur is critical, but the scarcity of low-sulfur coking coal requires new purification technology. Although Soviet experts agreed that all these steps were necessary to enhance the variety and purity of ferrous metallurgy products, serious obstacles remained. Bottlenecks were chronic in overall administration, between research and production branches, and between the industry and its suppliers in the machine-building sector. Meanwhile, a shortage of hard currency (see Glossary) hindered the purchase of sophisticated metal-processing equipment from the West.

Bottlenecks have also affected the Donetsk metallurgical plant, where a heralded program installed new blast furnaces in the mid-1980s but where no auxiliary equipment arrived to run them as designed. In many cases, industry spokesmen have blamed the research community for neglecting practical applications in favor of theoretical projects. Whatever the causes, large-scale improvement of Soviet metallurgical technology was spotty rather than consistent during the 1980s.

Data as of May 1989