Setting the Agenda – Nuclear Energy Assembly 2012

For the next three days (May 21-23, 2012), the Nuclear Energy Institute is hosting the annual nuclear industry conference and nuclear supplier expo called The Nuclear Energy Assembly.

The meeting, normally held in Washington, DC, will be at the Westin in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the past several years, Charlotte has become a significant hub of nuclear energy industry activity, so the NEI apparently decided to reward the city’s support of our industry and to go where the members are gathering.

I was excited to learn that the theme chosen for this year’s gathering is “Setting the Agenda.” I like the forward leaning sound of that phrase. Going on the offensive can be the best defense when you are being attacked with predictable regularity from competitors and misinformed antinuclear activists.

Despite what some antinuclear activists might claim, the nuclear industry is typically quite reticent. It rarely advertises its routine successes and rarely reminds people that uranium produces as much energy for the world’s economy each year as the oil produced by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined.

The nuclear industry rarely tells people in the United States that heat from fissioning uranium supports the production of about 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. Nuclear generated electricity is a vital product that lubricates 20% of the Gross National Product (GNP) in the United States. It produces direct sales revenue somewhere between $30 billion and $70 billion per year, depending on how you calculate the value of electricity.

Aside: If you do not like me crediting nuclear fission with being a vital lubricant for 20% of the US GNP, name a single GNP component that functions without electricity. End Aside.

The nuclear industry rarely reminds people that nuclear fission produces heat without releasing any greenhouse gases or any other polluting emissions at the power plant. Even when considering all CO2 emissions for the entire lifecycle of the plant construction and fuel supply processes, nuclear fission qualifies as an ultra-low source of CO2 emissions.

Since the 104 nuclear plants that use uranium fission heat to produce electrical power in the United States were built 20-40 years ago and since 50% of the enriched fuel that they use comes from converting Russian weapons material into commercial fuel, the rate of CO2 emissions for US nuclear energy is darned close to 0 grams of CO2/kilowatt hour.

(Most of the life-cycle emissions associated with nuclear energy come from either plant construction or the energy required to enrich natural uranium to a higher concentration of U-235 so that it can work in a light water reactor.)

My personal belief is that it is time for the nuclear industry to recognize that all industries have the responsibility to their stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers and stockholders) to sell their own story. All industries must tout their own benefits because no one else – especially in a highly competitive industry like energy supply – will tell anyone else how good they are.

I hope that the industry has decided that it is ready to step into full maturity and start acting like the valuable and vital industry that it is by selecting “Setting the Agenda” as its conference theme. I hope it is an indication that the still adolescent nuclear industry has recognized that its traditional supporters in government cannot and will not do the job of establishing nuclear energy as a key pillar of a national energy policy.

We all need clean energy and nearly all of us want that clean energy to be as reliable and as cheap as we have always assumed that electricity should be. Unlike all other alternatives to burning coal, natural gas and oil, nuclear fission proves every day that it can compete with the big boys and do everything they can do – better.

Aside: I purposely qualified my statement above with the word “nearly” because, as irrational as it might sound, there are some people who would prefer for human society to be put on a strict energy diet in order to force us to stop doing so much work to improve our environment. (Energy, after all, is defined as the capacity to do work. If society has fewer energy resources it can do less work.)

If you listen to my recent Atomic Show discussion with Dr. Arjun Makhijani, the author of Carbon Free, Nuclear Free, you will get some insight into the agenda of the people who think that having insufficient energy is a good thing. End Aside.

I am looking forward to meeting up with some regular readers and also meeting with other pro nuclear bloggers and podcasters. There might even be an Atomic Show or two coming out of the meeting.

Follow me on Twitter for the next few days. I’ll be providing as much information as I can about the conference and the talks that I hear. I will be trying to remember to tag each of the posts with #NEA2012. There might be a few posts where I need every one of the 140 characters to make my point, so I may have to leave out the hash tag.

About Rod Adams

13 Responses to “Setting the Agenda – Nuclear Energy Assembly 2012”

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    • David says:

      Glad to see this! the NYT’s article was slanted pro Jaczko and anti-nuclear but the announcement is welcome.

  1. Daniel says:

    Dr J has resigned. I hope Obama will send the right signal, soon.

  2. Andrew Jaremko says:

    Rod – this is good news, and I look forward to hearing more about it from your point of view. I had a look at the conference program, though, and what I see is an industry focused on their current business model: electricity generation. IMO somebody at an organizational or institutional level needs a vision of nuclear reactors as heat sources for all the industrial processes that need heat. This would build on Cal Abel and Jim Holm’s work on analyzing the opportunities for nuclear heat from reactors of a wide range of sizes and types. I hope you’ll keep your antennae up for hints of the ideas, and put a bug in some ears as well.

    While promotion of existing nuclear is important, I don’t think that visionary work can be neglected. I’d love to see some industry/academia programs building experimental reactors, with a stated ultimate goal of demonstrating the conversion of an existing fossil fueled installation to a nuclear heat source.

    The Jaczko news sounded good at first, but (as I read it) he only resigned as chairman, will remain chairman until he’s formally replaced, and is staying on the Commission until his actual term expires, even though he won’t be chairman. That’s not as good news as I would wish for.

    • Daniel says:

      Andrew,

      If Dr J stays on as a member, it means that one of the existing NRC commission appointee will have to become chairman.

      I think the NRC can only have 5 appointees at the top. (Unless they get rid of the lady who is up for renewal. This may be weel thought out by Dr J after all)

      Am I right ?

      • Paul Lindsey says:

        I disagree. The second sentence of his official statement reads, “My responsibility and commitment to safety will continue to be my paramount priority after I leave the Commission and until my successor is confirmed.”

        AFTER I LEAVE THE COMMISSION sounds like “goodbye” to me.

        The first sentence of the second paragraph reads, “After an incredibly productive three years as Chairman, I have decided this is the appropriate time to continue my efforts to ensure public safety in a different forum.”

        He didn’t say “… in a different role”. Again, I read this as a goodbye to the NRC.

        • Chuck P. says:

          “Different forum,” eh?
          Ten bucks says he turns up with the Union of Concerned “Scientists.”

  3. Daniel says:

    I think this is a strategic move. Kristine L. Svinicki will be ousted and replaced by the new NRC Chairman.

    DrJ has agreed to serve as a sacrificial lamb and forego his ego for future benefits.

    • Cal Abel says:

      This is not a typical resignation, here are my papers… sort of thing and is very politically motivated. Unfortunately, I think anything at this point would be speculation. Although the ousting of Svinicki is quite possible. I thought Obama has already nominated her and she is up for a hearing. I don’t think Reid is going to want to have a show down over her. By forcing it he would be asking his party to vote against a dead ringer (proven commissioner that is knowledgable and professional) for purely political purposes immediately before a close election (poles are tied) when he has a number of senators up for contested seats. Wisconsin will show how much support the Democrat party can muster with the Unions.

      Also if Jazcko stays on the staff he is still on the hook for perjury by issuing false statements during a sworn in hearing. I am unsure of how much support he has from Reid or even how much Reid can afford to give.

      A lot of moving pieces. And I have no clue as to how it will pan out. Interesting times.

  4. JimB says:

    Since we have a Democrat President, my understanding is that the 5 member board of commisioners can only have 3 Democrats. With Dr. J being one of the three I would think that Svinicki’s chances to be re-appointed just got a lot stronger.

  5. John Chatelle says:

    Thanks Rod, I’ll go back to Twitter, despite my dis-inclination to read 149 character posts.

    As far as Jaczko goes, my intrepretation of his resignation was that he would stay on as chairmain until he could be replaced, which was always the case anyway. If his supporters lose big in November, he’s gone too; If his supporters win in November, his “resignation” will not be accepted, and he will stay on as Chairman.

    The only thing his “resignation” accomplished was to take some of the wind out of the sails of those whom can use his ham handed handling of just about everything against his political superiors. His resignation was an adept political move. I very much doubt it was his idea.

  6. James Greenidge says:

    I just hear from other pro-nukes that “Mr. Gundersen now says it’s Unit 3 that’s fatally flawed and in danger. Again with no evidence, no calculation, no nothing … How can a so-called expert say these and get away with it without any repercussion to his professional career?”

    This is why it is ESSENTIAL that the Nuclear Assembly in Chicago at least squeeze in a chorus of de-FUDing the likes of Arnie and Helen and their ilk while everyone in the industry is one place and before the press!! Anyone at the Assembly, please bring this UP!! Don’t let Arnie slide and do more damage! We’ve long ignored his likes at our peril!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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