The NEI Nuclear Energy Assembly (NEA) 2019 Conference was held in Washington, DC this year.  The conference was filled with two days of motivating and innovative topics that outlined the threats and opportunities that exist for our nuclear generation industry.  The general theme for the conference was Advocacy.  Nuclear generation has a wonderful history and story to tell, but as an industry we need to get out and tell our story.  Change happens when we all, at the individual level, advocate for what we believe in.  Advocacy has to involve our own individual story and why we are committed to this industry.

With nearly 2/3 of all nuclear plants are facing threats that could result in closures, advocacy is what is required to begin changing the minds and hearts of people.  A few key stats that were discussed on nuclear generation’s contribution:

  • The overall industry has made improvements in the last two years. As an industry our operating costs are down by 15%.
  • The Nuclear industry runs at an average capacity factor of 92%.
  • Nuclear generates approximately 1/5 of all electricity in the U.S.
  • If nuclear plants continue to be retired early, in the U.S. it could result in a projected emissions of four billion tons additional CO2 over a 20-year period.
  • Air pollution is a major world-wide concern. Referenced statistics that there are seven million premature deaths in the world due to air pollution.
  • Models show that additional renewables (non-nuclear) drive up the cost of total systems.

Senator Lisa Murkowksi (R, Alaska) and Congressman Michael Doyle (D, Pennsylvania) both spoke at this year’s meeting.  Both strongly stated their support for nuclear energy and its role in supporting the U.S. energy needs well into the future.  Senator Murkowski discussed her thoughts and wants for the U.S. to regain its footing as an International leader, where she referenced the International Market for Nuclear will reach $740B US in the year 2030.  She also stressed the need to resolve the long-term storage solution, which includes Yucca Mountain and likely additional intermediary repositories in accepting states.

Congressman Doyle focused more on nuclear’s contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) levels and stated that “Reducing GHG levels is not realistically achievable without nuclear energy.”  He also strongly supports Yucca Mountain and the Interim Storage Solutions, as well as pursuing expanding the Production Tax Credits for nuclear, in which they are currently not eligible, and working to make the U.S. a major player in the nuclear exports game again.

Dr. Ralph Izzo, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO discussed five key consumer drivers for nuclear energy:

  1. Must provide energy efficiency improvement without impacting lifestyle
  2. Must provide clean energy supply
  3. Must electrify economy – vehicles
  4. Must have a solid, resilient grid
  5. Above everything else – rates must remain low.

The following people are on the Innovation needs nuclear panel: Ray Rothrock, Chairman and CEO RedSeal; Jonathan Cirtain, Vice President of BWXT – Advanced Technology Programs; Kam Ghaffarian, Founder and Executive Chairman X-Energy; and Tim O’Connor, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer, Xcel Energy.

The panel made numerous key points to provide insight and direction for nuclear generation plants and supply chain.  The consensus, provided that the current influx of political goodwill and change cannot be relied upon to maintain and/sustain lifestyle, we as an industry must continue to evolve through making transformational change operational performance and efficiency to be competitive.  This requires:

  • Leveraging technology to shift from a labor-centric model to a technology-centric model
  • NRC flexibility on compliance requirements and acceptance of technology advancements
  • Continue to enhance and increase our cyber security capabilities
  • Develop greater working synergies between the national laboratories and nuclear plants
  • Closer vendor-utility-manufacturing relationships that address the entire supply chain

The conference also awards the Top Innovative Practice (TIP) awards across the industry.  There were a number of creative and innovative solutions. Check them out here.

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