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Americans Convert Eastern. German Military Firm With PM-Go East Young Man

July 19, 1993

MITTENWALDE, Germany (AP) _ Mobile radar stations from Iraq, cut up for scrap, are in a rusty pile where the new recycling plant will go.

In buildings where they once repaired radar stations for the Soviet army and its allies, workers refit streetcars for their new boss, General Atomics of San Diego.

Retooling of the Mittenwalde Equipment Contruction plant, which stands amid potato and wheat fields 20 miles southeast of Berlin, is part of a larger military conversion project by General Atomics.

In May, the American firm bought Mittenwalde and the five other remaining parts of Spezialtechnik, an former East German military conglomerate.

″This is really one of the few successful conversion projects in the world,″ said Karsten Blue, 28, who runs Spezialtechnik for his father, General Atomics chairman Neal Blue.

Conversion is a specialty of General Atomics, which also is building an experimental $100 million nuclear plant in Russia - financed by the United States - that will use fuel from dismantled Soviet warheads.

Blue’s company hopes to use Spezialtechnik as a base for cleanup and weapons disposal in the former Soviet bloc. General Atomics will be involved in the multibillion-dollar cleanup of uranium mines at nearby Wismut.

Spezialtechnik’s former rocket factory now produces wheelchairs. At the shuttered munitions plant, the company is destroying 700,000 tons of East German gunpowder by incineration.

At Mittenwalde, workers gut creaky old streetcars from such eastern cities as Halle, Magdeburg and Zwickau and install computerized controls.

The recycled cars are a bargain for financially pressed cities, costing as little as $800,000 each compared to $2.4 million for a new one.

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