Nuclear-disposal firm plans expansion


November 26, 1990|By Leslie Cauley

The next few years will be critical for RSO Inc., a Laurel-based service company that caters to the nuclear power industry, its new president believes.

New federal laws will require states to manage their own radioactive waste, rather than hire companies such as RSO to provide those services. When the laws kick in, between 1993 and 1996, RSO will have to come up with new and innovative ways to increase its state-funded business base, an important income source.

The whole industry of nuclear service contractors is headed for a shakeout, president Richard J. DiSalvo predicts.

"There's a lot of uncertainty regarding waste transport and disposal," says Mr. DiSalvo, 43, named president two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, RSO -- short for Radiation Service Organization -- plans to expand.

At its new, 20,000-square-foot headquarters in Odenton, RSO finally will be able to consolidate its 50-member-plus staff under one roof, Mr. DiSalvo says. The facility will have a permanent classroom for the specialized training classes that employees must go through to handle, haul and dispose of radioactive materials.

At the same time, RSO is preparing to enter new markets, Atlanta in particular.

Armed with a $200,000 contract for radioactive waste management from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, RSO is exploring opportunities in that area.

On the home front, RSO is also expanding into the biomedical market in the Baltimore-Washington area. Mr. DiSalvo predicts that market should mushroom as emerging biotechnological and biomedical firms take hold and grow.

Regionally, RSO plans to expand into Frederick; Richmond, Va.; and Philadelphia.

That would include other markets around the United States where the research base is strong, particularly in cities where major research universities are located, he says.

Born and reared in Boston, Mr. DiSalvo got his first taste of the nuclear power business in the Navy, where he spent two years as a submarine nuclear power plant operator.

The Vietnam veteran started his career outside the military as a health physicist at a Columbia-based nuclear power services company in the 1970s. There, he became manager of engineering projects and radiation safety.

At the same time, he pursued a law degree at the University of Baltimore. He graduated in 1983 and set up a practice three years later.

His specialty: hazardous waste transportation and regulation.

That got the attention of RSO, which became a regular client.

He was hired as RSO's general manager in 1988 and rose to the presidency. He replaces RSO founder Daniel E. Caulk, who became chairman and chief executive.

The main obstacle now, says Mr. DiSalvo, is to weather the coming storm that will result from stepped up regulatory efforts on the federal and state level, and the expected drain on business from the new federal rules.

"Nobody can predict what's going to happen," he says.

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