Platts recently put on another successful conference regarding nuclear energy, by bringing together leading operators, regulators, policy makers, and new reactor developers in the industry, just blocks from the White House. This year’s Annual Nuclear Energy Conference provided a broad perspective to the table, and allowed the attendees to speak directly to many of the industry’s policy makers.
Some may find the District of Columbia as an unusual place, considering the lack of nuclear facilities, but the District is the seat of the federal government where energy legislation, across the board, is decided. Although, there is the merger between the DC-based Pepco, and Chicago-based nuclear energy company Exelon at contention (the US General Services Administration opposes the merger, citing Exelon’s prior treatment of large energy users unsatisfactory).
The conference doesn’t center into the fray of the merger, but instead focuses on experts like John Kotek, Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, US Department of Energy, who was on hand to speak. He spoke during the session entitled, Importance of Nuclear R&D for the Existing Fleet and for Advanced Reactors, and may be a subject matter ordinary Washingtonians may choose to overlook; but the fact of the matter is, nuclear energy is important because it provides the US a way to become less dependent on foreign oil, and at the same time increase our green energy supply. Kotek highlighted this point, as well as pointing out the levels of research needed to maintain the US current/future fleet of reactors, reactor licensing and development framework, and how to reach out to a younger audience; specifically, young engineers.
A conference attendee remarked to me, “Reaching out to those who make up America’s future is essential. Not only to keep the industry going, but also though younger minds we can develop better ways to make nuclear even more safe and efficient.”
Jim Conca, Chief Scientist, UFA Ventures and Contributor at Forbes Magazine, also spoke during the session entitled, Climate Change, Clean Air, and Nuclear Power. To the global community many countries have won the war of public opinion, and found a way to create a positive relationship between the industry and the public.
Presently, there are thirty-one countries in the world that have nuclear energy facilities, and according to the World Nuclear Association, over 45 countries are considering nuclear power capabilities. Countries like France, Belgium, Slovakia, and Hungary may use more nuclear energy than the US, but the US has been trending in favor of expanding it’s nuclear footprint in recent years. As of 2010, the US has had 99 reactors in operation with an additional five that were in production.
The conference presenters gave all the participants an information update on perspectives on the nuclear industry.
Others who spoke were: William Ostendorff, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Stan Wise, Chairman, Georgia Public Utility Commission; David Brown, Senior Vice President, Federal Government Affairs, Exelon Corporation; Tina Taylor, Director, Strategic Programs, Electric Power Research Institute; Ron Faibish, Ph.D., Senior Advisor, ARPA-E, US Department of Energy; Christopher Miller, Director, License Renewal, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and Richard Myers, Vice President, Policy Development, Nuclear Energy Institute, just to name a few.