Nuclear Society's Klein talks challenges ahead for industry in power plan compliance

Last week, the White House held a nuclear energy summit that was largely positive on nuclear's role as part of a climate change solution. Do the Obama administration's policies echo this push on nuclear? During today's OnPoint, Andrew Klein, president-elect of the American Nuclear Society, discusses the issues for state regulators to consider on nuclear as they craft their Clean Power Plan compliance mechanisms. He also talks about his industry's international push ahead of next month's climate negotiations in Paris.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Andrew Klein, president-elect to the American Nuclear Society. Andrew, thank you for joining me.

Andrew Klein: Thanks, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: Andrew, the American Nuclear Society is making a COP21 Nuclear for Climate push ahead of next month's international climate negotiations in Paris. Before digging into the international discussions, let's talk about what's happening here in the U.S. in nuclear as it relates to climate. Last week the White House held a nuclear energy summit that was largely positive on nuclear energy's role as part of a climate change solution. Do you think the policies coming out of this administration are in line with sort of that positivity that we heard from the White House last week?

Andrew Klein: I think they are and they need to continue to grow in that direction. It's important that they put policy behind these statements. The White House announcement is the first time in my recollection that we've had an administration come out and say that nuclear is important, nuclear is necessary to meet the climate change goals that we have, and if we don't use nuclear we're going to be in big trouble and never meet those goals. So yeah, the policy needs to follow the announcement.

Monica Trauzzi: So the biggest policy that we're considering on climate right now is the Clean Power Plan, of course. And as state regulators begin to craft their compliance mechanisms for the CPP and consider trading schemes as well with other states, what lies ahead for states with large amounts of nuclear power to offer?

Andrew Klein: Those states that have it -- right now it's not clear that that capacity will be included in the going forward. New capacity apparently will, plant upgrades will, and so those will be important as we move forward with those policies. Each state's going to have to implement it on their own. We expect that they will take this announcement and move on this and hope that the Department of Energy will expand this into the states so that it'll include the capability to include nuclear in all of the capabilities to count against the Clean Climate Plan -- financial plan.

Monica Trauzzi: So what -- yeah, and what states write into those compliance mechanisms will ultimately dictate how much play nuclear gets. So how are you engaging stakeholders to ensure that nuclear is sort of put on an even playing field as other technologies?

Andrew Klein: Sure. We've started a group to start working with each of the states to help them craft their policy plans as they move forward and how they're going to count. And so we've started a committee through the American Nuclear Society to start implementing some of those activities, giving them a toolkit, so to say, so that it would allow them to pick up and use some of these toolkits to make sure that nuclear is a part of the solution.

Monica Trauzzi: And the response so far to that?

Andrew Klein: Has been very good in the limited number of states that we've approached so far. It's been very good.

Monica Trauzzi: Which states?

Andrew Klein: I don't know offhand.

Monica Trauzzi: OK. Entergy this month announced it will be closing another facility. The market is pushing plants to close, so are the economics a greater challenge than policy?

Andrew Klein: The economics are constantly a challenging area. The plants that are trying to compete on the open marketplace are running into the low cost of gas. There's no doubt about that, and that's driving some of the ways that we look at nuclear -- and these are going to be the things that shut down plants. We're hoping that there are no more of these. We'd like to get the economics in line, but extremely low gas and the shutting down of nuclear power plants that are perfectly safe, efficient and effective and operating and sustainable for many years -- some of these plants have received license extensions for 20 years and we've seen them shut down early only because of economics. There's got to be a longer-term view to some of these things, that nuclear can provide that baseload capacity. We can't allow the up and down and natural gas -- the availability and price of natural gas in a year -- tomorrow we hardly know.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, so you're saying we can't allow it. So how do you not allow that? You're suggesting through policy there needs to be some kind of --

Andrew Klein: It's got to be through state policies that allow the true competition in the marketplace, with a knowledge of looking forward to decades out, that we have the power and capability, because our customers, consumers, electorate, citizens are going to expect when you throw the switch, there's going to be power there.

Monica Trauzzi: Let's switch to the international discussions. How are the challenges in the international discussions on climate and nuclear different than what we see in the U.S.?

Andrew Klein: I don't think they're any different. I think that all energy supplies, energy capabilities need to be treated on equal footing. So allow -- encourage all of them and allow them to play in the marketplace and -- but note that the marketplace isn't just the price of electricity tomorrow, next quarter, next year. It's out there in time and there's a need for both baseload and intermittent capabilities. The capability will provide it all but you need some baseload, and we only have a few possibilities for baseload: coal, gas, hydro and nuclear.

Monica Trauzzi: So what are your expectations for the level of attention we could see nuclear energy get in Paris next month?

Andrew Klein: We'll see. There's an organization, Nuclear for Climate, that has been sprung up among a number of energy societies around the world, and that Nuclear for Climate push is going to be there in Paris in December. And it's going to be very important that hopefully they're heard by the delegates that go into the COP21 sessions.

Monica Trauzzi: And what's the potential in Paris for how that agreement could stimulate investments in nuclear energy internationally?

Andrew Klein: The potential is large. I mean, to stimulate investments, clean energy investments of any kind, it's very large. If we can make sure that all energy supply capabilities and technologies are treated equally -- let them compete on a level playing field and a marketplace that is fair and not weighted to short-term approaches.

Monica Trauzzi: As you consider the landscape for new nuclear construction worldwide, what are the biggest markets for growth?

Andrew Klein: It appears to be the biggest markets for growth tend to be in Asia -- is the largest one. The Chinese are building plants. Other countries are building plants there. They're going to continue to build because they will burn dirty coal if they don't use nuclear.

Monica Trauzzi: Your winter meeting is happening this week here in Washington.

Andrew Klein: Yes.

Monica Trauzzi: How big of a focus are climate and policy playing in that meeting?

Andrew Klein: This is a -- the American Nuclear Society is a technical society, so it's mostly engineers and scientists talking about the technical issues related to it. But we do have sessions on policy and implementation and capabilities there -- there's some, but the main emphasis is technical.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it there. Thank you so much for coming on the show -- interesting perspective.

Andrew Klein: Thank you very much, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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