Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson said new nuclear plant construction in the United State is not a matter of "if" but of "when" and "how" during a speech Wednesday at the Platts Nuclear Energy Conference outside Washington D.C. He went on to say that "today there’s an even more compelling case that greater use of nuclear power is a vital part of a balanced energy strategy.”
Johnson characterized the future of nuclear energy in the U.S. as promising, complicated and challenging. Citing President Obama’s recent State of the Union address -- which mentioned nuclear power as a key component of his administration's goal to produce 80 percent of America's energy from non-carbon sources by 2035 -- Johnson said “nuclear energy is certainly not the only tool we have or need in building a clean energy future. There’s a toolbox of options, and we’ll need a diverse mix tailored for each company and region. But I do believe that advanced nuclear technology is one of the essential tools our nation must employ in a bigger way. It’s a key part of a realistic, balanced solution. The need is compelling, and the global trend is undeniable.”
A Progress Energy release highlighting the speech said global energy use is expected to double by 2030, and U.S. electricity consumption is expected to grow by 30 percent by 2035. A third of existing U.S. nuclear plants will be at least 60 years old by 2035, and that decade could see a wave of nuclear plant retirements at a time many fossil-fueled plants also will reach the end of their useful life.
Johnson pointed to four factors needed to drive the nation’s expansion of nuclear energy: Excellent maintenance and operation of existing reactors, the financial strength of companies planning to build more plants in light of tight lending conditions, partnerships among plant owners to reduce risk to individual companies, and broad support from legislative and regulatory bodies, including more cost recovery during construction.
“There is positive momentum on all these fronts,” Johnson said. “But more work needs to be done, especially in putting the right cost-recovery mechanisms in place … I would like to see the United States lead the way in commercial nuclear expansion – thoughtfully, strategically and on a scale and timetable sufficient to the need.”
Progress Energy owns and operates five reactors at four sites in the Carolinas and Florida. The company has pending applications with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for up to two new reactors each at of those sites.
View the full text of Johnson’s speech attached below.
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