Maria Korsnick elected to head nuclear trade group

Maria Korsnick was elected president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the policy organization for the U.S. nuclear energy industry, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

She will succeed Marvin Fertel, who retires on Dec. 31 after nine years as NEI’s president and CEO, NEI said in an Oct. 4 news release.

Korsnick has served as NEI’s chief operating officer since May 2015 as a loaned executive from Exelon (NYSE:EXC) and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG). In that role, she has guided NEI’s day-to-day operations and represented the industry before a multitude of stakeholders—including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Obama administration, Congress, state lawmakers, international nuclear professionals, think tanks and policymakers.

Fertel had announced in December 2015 that he would be retiring from the nuclear lobbying organization by the end of 2016. Press accounts had listed Korsnick as a top in-house candidate to succeed Fertel.

Don Brandt, NEI’s chairman of the board and the chairman, president and CEO of Pinnacle West Capital (NYSE:PNW), said Korsnick has demonstrated exemplary leadership in a range of industry disciplines.

“Maria is highly regarded for her strong leadership skills and exceptional technical expertise,” Brandt said. “As proven by her success as NEI’s chief operating officer, she will provide the vision and guidance that will drive the organization’s effectiveness,” Brandt said.

“The NEI Executive Committee is confident that Maria will enable NEI to increase recognition of nuclear energy’s value, further empower the nuclear industry’s commitment to efficiency and reliability, and facilitate the development of next-generation reactors,” Brandt said.

Korsnick’s election comes at a transformational time for the industry, NEI said. Nuclear power plants operating in 30 states in 2015 achieved a record-high industry average capacity factor of 92.2%—while generating more than 60% of America’s carbon-free electricity supply.

Over the next four years, five new reactors will commence operations in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. However, an estimated 15 to 20 existing reactors are at risk of premature shutdown. The premature shutdown risk is largely due to what NEI calls the inability of current markets to recognize the value of carbon-free baseload generation.

Over the past several years, companies have shut down—or announced plans to shut down—10 reactors in five states.

“I couldn’t be more proud to have the opportunity to lead NEI and advance nuclear energy,” Korsnick said. “I am passionate about the key role nuclear energy can play for our nation. The nuclear industry is facing challenges, and I’m looking forward to help strengthen the policies, regulations and public support that will ensure it has a robust future.”

Prior to joining NEI, Korsnick was Exelon Generation’s senior vice president for Northeast operations and chief nuclear officer for CENG. She oversaw operations at three nuclear energy facilities and chaired the industry’s Fukushima Response Steering Committee that identified safety enhancements for extreme events based on lessons learned from the 2011 accident in Japan and implemented them at all U.S. reactors.

Among other leadership roles during her 30-year nuclear energy career, Korsnick served as acting CEO at CENG, vice president for corporate operations, site vice president at the Ginna nuclear power plant in New York, and she was a federally licensed senior reactor operator at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear station in Maryland.

Korsnick has a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Maryland. She is a member of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations Accreditation Board and former chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute’s Nuclear Power Council.

At the formation of NEI in 1994, Fertel was vice president of nuclear economics and fuel supply. He was named senior vice president and chief nuclear officer in 2003. Fertel has headed the nuclear power group since 2009.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at