When her turn came to address the Nov. 6 White House Summit on Nuclear Energy, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler came quickly to the point and urged that more nuclear power plants be built in the United States
“If we are not building new nuclear power plants, U.S. leadership … will fade away,” the labor union official said. Domestic nuclear energy officials are kidding themselves if they think the nation can continue to be a nuclear leader without building nuclear power plants, Shuler said.
Likewise, new nuclear power employees cannot be trained overnight and there is a “silver tsunami coming,” Shuler said. The labor union official was referring to the graying workforce in the nuclear industry, and expected retirements of veteran workers in the next few years.
“So build more nuclear power plants! That’s our main message today,” Shuler closed by saying.
Westinghouse Electric President and CEO Danny Roderick spoke immediately after Shuler. “Business and labor agree,” on virtually “everything she said,” Roderick said.
For Westinghouse, 60% of its business is overseas and 60% of its workers are in the United States: It seems as though U.S. nuclear power plants are “closing faster than we can build them,” Roderick said.
Entergy (NYSE:ETR) has announced in recent weeks that it plans to close two of its merchant nuclear plants in the Northeast.
“We have an aging coal-fired fleet and we have an aging nuclear fleet,” Roderick said. “Are we going to replace it with all gas. “There is a dilemma coming.”
Nuclear plants require far more time for planning, research and licensing than natural gas plants, Roderick said. Every nuclear plant that closes makes it tougher for the United States to curb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while maintaining an affordable supply of electricity.
If the construction of new domestic nuclear power plants doesn’t keep pace with reactor retirements will send a dispiriting message about declining U.S. nuclear power leadership, said Susan Eisenhower.
“It looks like we are getting out of the game, when we should be upping our game,” Eisenhower said. Eisenhower is president of the Eisenhower Group, which provides strategic counsel on political, business, and public affairs projects.
Numerous speakers at the event, including Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Assistant Director for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe, said the nation must keep nuclear around as a carbon-free source of energy.
McCabe said EPA’s Clean Power Plan treats nuclear on equal footing with other sources of clean energy. “The clean power plan is not all-powerful,” McCabe said, when asked if CPP can help save nuclear plants.