Editor’s note: This guest post is in response to Westinghouse’s Roderick shifts resources from SMR to AP1000.
By Danny Roderick
I enjoy your blog and overall you get it right so I wanted to provide a little comment about growing our Westinghouse decommissioning business. Our fundamental business is growth in new units and servicing/fueling the existing fleet. Westinghouse is very aggressive in doing both of these. We have more new unit orders than we have plants on the decommissioning backlog so the net is still a positive trend for our industry.
Another obligation our industry has is to fulfill our promise to return the land that these plants used during their service life and show that our overall impact was positive to the environment. Part of the mystique about nuclear power is that it is widely believed that plant sites will be a forever wasteland, which is completely untrue. We as an industry have to eliminate that fear and show how we can return the land to useable property to gain support for new build.
Westinghouse’s decommissioning business is not a negative. It is a recognition of a life cycle that is manageable. Yes, it is a business opportunity for job growth, but it is also a way we develop new tooling and technology that we use in our new units and in our operating fleets.
Chief Executive Officer
Westinghouse Electric Company
Danny Roderick is president and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Electric Company, headquartered in Pittsburgh. Westinghouse is a leading nuclear energy company and worldwide supplier of nuclear plant products and technologies.
Response from Rod Adams
Here is the quote from the original post that stimulated Roderick to respond.
In a rather depressing conclusion to the article, Roderick noted that Westinghouse sees a growing opportunity to build its reactor decommissioning business. His company believes that market for destroying nuclear plants may provide as much annual revenue as building new reactors.
I hope Roderick is wrong.
My initial comment was not as much about Westinghouse’s business model or its decision to expand a business line that customers seem to want. It was about the current level of value placed on the output of nuclear power plants that are still in the prime of their life. Leaders in government and in the utility industry need to do a better job of recognizing and explaining the importance of generating electricity without producing CO2, NOx, SOx, fly ash, scrubber slurry, and other unmitigated waste products.
When nuclear plants need to be repaired, they should be repaired with a minimum level of external interference, especially when that intervention is aimed at increasing cost, slowing the schedule and inserting uncertainty into the process. The government must stop ratcheting rules to increase cost without a commensurate increase in safety or reliability.
No state level bureaucrats should believe that they have the power to harass a nuclear plant that serves customers in other states so much that its owners decide to shut it down. As long as they follow federal safety rules and maintain their federal licenses, nuclear plants should be allowed to quietly serve their customers. Electricity is a vital product in interstate commerce; it is not a business whose impact stops at state lines. That is especially true for a facility like Vermont Yankee, which is located within a few dozen yards of the state line.
To borrow some words from Jeff Immelt, I hope that Roderick’s successor’s successor will be glad that Westinghouse has developed a world beating reputation for being capable of taking apart old reactor plants that can no longer perform their task of generating clean, low cost electricity.
Decommissioning nuclear power plants should be a big business once existing nuclear plants reach 60 or 80 years old. Even in the US, the home to some of the oldest nuclear plants in the world, we still have about 20 years to go before that condition arrives.
Even when the decommissioning business becomes important, few, if any projects should plan for greenfield restoration. Efforts to decommission old nuclear plants should be structured to prepare the site for continued use as the host of new nuclear power plants. After all, electricity is not a fad. Its replacement energy source is not even visible in laboratories.
Plant sites should never be considered to have the potential to be “forever wasteland,” but their owners should start now in helping people understand that they will most likely be in perpetual use as nuclear energy generating stations. It is hard to imagine a higher and better use for a licensable piece of land that already has a well supported place in the electrical power grid.
Publisher, Atomic Insights