NEI: Nuclear power sector poised to rebound along with economy

The nuclear energy industry has made solid progress in facing the issues that confront it, including implementing post-Fukushima reforms, introducing new reactor designs and forming international partnerships for new power plant construction. This is according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and its president and CEO Marvin Fertel.

In the keynote address to 550 industry leaders at NEI’s annual conference, Fertel listed milestones achieved by those in the industry, including the pouring of concrete basemats for new reactors at facilities in South Carolina and Georgia.

Such projects can support 35,000 U.S. jobs, according to an analysis by Westinghouse and the Shaw Group.

As the U.S. economy rebounds and electricity demand increases, additional nuclear energy facility construction can be anticipated beyond the five reactors being built in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, he said.

“Ten applications for construction and operating licenses and two for early site permits are under Nuclear Regulatory Commission review. We don’t expect construction on those projects to start until later this decade, but we do expect more new reactors to be built as electricity demand recovers,” he said.

In addition to new reactor construction, the industry is making advances in the domestic fuel supply sector, he said.

“Louisiana Energy Services in New Mexico will double its enrichment capacity, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has received a license to build a laser-enrichment plant in North Carolina. GE plans to decide this year whether to construct the facility. And the U.S. Enrichment Corporation has plans for a new enrichment facility in Ohio.”

Nuclear energy facilities operating in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses. They generate nearly two-thirds of the electricity that comes from carbon-free sources.

Fertel identified several policy priorities that will better position the nuclear energy sector to help address societal needs. These include:

·      New reactor designs, including small reactors with less than 300 megawatts of generating capacity

·      Enhanced government advocacy in global nuclear energy trade

·      Ensuring the ability of U.S. facilities and the NRC to maintain their safety focus amid an expanding regulatory agenda

·      New policy for used nuclear fuel management

·      Post-Fukushima safety enhancements.

·      Operating existing nuclear facilities safely and reliably

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