SAN FRANCISCO — Even as the semiconductor world tries to follow the twists and turns in the ongoing saga over the fate of its chip unit, Toshiba Corp. is planning to break ground on a new NAND flash memory fab in Japan next year.

Toshiba said this week that Toshiba Memory Corp. (TMC), its wholly owned subsidiary, has selected Kitakami City in Japan's Iwate prefecture as the site of its next NAND fab. Though the exact construction schedule has not been determined, Toshiba said it plans to break ground on the facility in 2018.

Toshiba has for months been trying to hammer out a deal to sell TMC in order to help offset massive losses from its U.S. nuclear power business. Most recently, Toshiba appeared close to a deal with a consortium involving its partner in NAND development and manufacturing, Western Digital Corp., but the two sides were unable to finalize a deal in time to meet Toshiba's self-imposed deadline last week.

The most recent news service reports indicate that Western Digital has offered to scrap its business in exchange for more favorable terms in its joint venture with TMC. However, other reports indicate that Western Digital has approached Apple about contributing about $460 million to strengthen its bid. Apple is also said to be involved in another would-be buyer for TMC, a consortium led by contract manufacturer Foxconn.

Toshiba said this week that it is holding discussions with Western Digital's memory subsidiary, SanDisk, about its involvement with the Kitakami site. Toshiba snarkily announced last month that it would go it alone in the financing of new equipment for its Fab 6 currently under construction at its Yokkaichi Operations site in Mie prefecture over the firms' clash over Toshiba's right to sell its memory chip unit.

Toshiba said it would build the new fab to help meet rising demand for flash amid a current capacity shortfall. The NAND market is expected to increase by more than 30 percent this year, primarily due to tight supply.

—Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.