During a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing titled DOE Modernization: Advancing the Economic and National Security Benefits of America’s Nuclear Infrastructure there was an important exchange between Rep. Shimkus (R-IL) and Maria Korsnick, President and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute.
So you don’t have to scroll through 4 hours of video, I extracted the specific clip for you.
Rep. Shimkus, as a congressman who serves a district that is home to several nuclear plants, is well versed in the fact that nuclear plants are currently struggling in the restructured electricity markets. He has heard testimony from Ms. Korsnick to the effect that the markets are not fully valuing all of the attributes of the reliable, frequency stable, and emission free electricity nuclear plants provide.
He also recognizes that economic competitiveness in markets includes cost structures that can be influenced by external actors. He specifically recognizes that perceptions of financial risk and uncertainty can add significant costs and cost decisions that are not fully accounted for in financial statements.
A nuclear plant, for example, might be marginally profitable based on its current costs and its current revenues from electricity sales. If continued operation of that plant, however, carries an increasing risk of changes in rules or the need to make investments to address a growing inventory of used nuclear fuel, the plant owner might come to the conclusion that the amount of profit is insufficient to balance the financial risk of keeping the plant going.
Rop Shimkus asked Ms. Korsnick to address the costs that have been imposed on the nuclear industry by federal actions and inactions that have continued to impose risks and unquantifiable exposure to continued storage of “nuclear waste” in the form of used fuel.
Ms. Korsnick accurately described them nuclear waste issue as being a repetitional burden that has “imposed an albatross” on the neck of the nuclear industry. She clearly illustrates the communications difficulty of attempting to inform the public that we have safe and effective ways to handle the material. When the public hears that America has not solved the problem, despite 50 years or more of working on it, they legitimately get the impression that the solution must be really difficult–to the point of being virtually unsolvable.
Rep. Shimkus concludes the exchange with noting that the U.S. has addressed the issue and has a law on the books for a workable solution. It’s way past time to remove the costly albatross of “the waste issue” from the back of an overburdened industry that could offer substantial economic and environmental value if unshackled.