Maria Korsnick, the new President and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, recently talked with Monica Trauzzi, host of E&E News’s OnPoint. Korsnick and Trauzzi discussed the nuclear industry’s near term future and its public information strategy under the coming Donald Trump Administration. A complete transcript of the interview is posted on the E&E News site.
Korsnick began by describing how nuclear energy has bipartisan support and how NEI was prepared to continue telling people and politicians about the benefits of nuclear technology no matter which candidate won the election. Since Trump won, Korsnick said she expected that the climate change and environmental conversation might be a little less emphasized and that, though still important, it would probably not be the lead item in a conversation like it would have been under a Democratic administration.
She emphasized that there are many good reasons that nuclear energy should remain an attractive technology for the Trump Administration. Nuclear facilities provide good jobs, they contribute to a strong economy, they are important infrastructure investments and they help reduce dependency on a small set of fuel options. In addition, Korsnick pointed out that many nuclear plants are located in the “rust-belt” states that provided Trump’s margin of victory.
Trauzzi asked Korsnick about competition for nuclear energy from natural gas and wondered if the nuclear industry was concerned that its competitor might see more favors from a president who campaigned with such a strong pro-fossil fuel message.
Korsnick’s pointed out that natural gas dependency includes vulnerabilities that can be alleviated or balanced out by keeping nuclear plants as part of the portfolio. She also reminded the audience that natural gas has not always been cheap and probably will not always be cheap into the future.
“Natural gas right now obviously is at a very low price. I think actually too low. In other words, nobody’s making money in the way that the marketplace is today, but natural gas requires a lot of infrastructure, gas pipelines, et cetera, to serve those plants that they would be placed.
That’s one thing, going back to what that nuclear proposition is, all that fuel that that nuclear plant needs is right on site for the 18 months or 24 months that that plant will run. That fuel firmness is something that we should value and that the marketplace needs to value.”
Like many people in the press, Trauzzi wondered if Trump’s statements about backing away from the Clean Power Plan would harm nuclear energy’s market position. Korsnick, without being too accusatory, reminded her that the Clean Power Plan didn’t give operating nuclear plants any credit.
Aside: I’m not limited by a need to be politically polite. Not only did the Clean Power Plan fail to provide any incentive to invest in license extension for operating nuclear plants, it has been listed as a contributing reason for the decision to close the Ft. Calhoun Station 17 years before its existing license ran out. The NRDC’s assistance during CPP drafting is quite apparent to those who understand the way Washington works. End Aside.
The primary take away from the discussion should be that NEI is in capable hands, that nuclear technology is valuable and that the nuclear energy industry is continually working to improve its message. Massaging materials will remind political leaders about the value of fuel diversity, the importance of on site fuel storage, the contributions nuclear can make to clean air and clean water, the contribution it can make to community development and jobs, the need for a solid electricity supply infrastructure and the ability of nuclear energy to produce power without CO2 emissions.