And day last. We’re going to focus today on John Rowe, Exelon CEO. As we said over the last two days, the focus of the hearings has been general in nature, alighting on nuclear energy and other energy generators only occasionally. But Rowe dove straight into provisions that should be considered if the bill is to be responsive to the nuclear industry.
Now, there were also representatives from the coal, natural gas, wind and hydro industries present at the hearing yesterday (solar was included earlier), so do not let our monotonic focus confuse you into thinking nuclear was overstressed at the hearing at the expense of others. Not at all.
Finally, this story is taken from Nuclear Energy Overview, our news service for NEI members. What you may not know that NEI’s member will know is that 1. John Rowe is a very prominent figure in the industry, so his words carry considerable weight with the Senators. He speaks to the interests of the industry and, as you’ll see, he’s very frank and realistic in his assessments. 2. Rowe was chairman of NEI (and other industry associations, too, over his long career) for a spell. Members know that, but for our purposes, so should you. (And he said so in his testimony – no need for it to be repeated in the story.)
So, without further ado:
Exelon CEO John Rowe brought nuclear energy front and center Thursday in the marathon three-day hearings being held by the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. Rowe offered his perspective on the potential role of nuclear energy in the Kerry-Boxer climate change bill (S.1733) and provided his viewpoint on elements in the bill that would help the expansion of nuclear energy.
Asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) what incentives should be in the bill “to get 150 new nuclear plants up and running in the coming decades,” Rowe provided a list of elements.
“First,” Rowe said, “supporting at least uprates, or better yet … new nuclear plants as part of a low-carbon energy package would have a positive impact. A legislative finding that on-site storage or surface storage of spent nuclear fuel is an acceptable long-term solution to the used nuclear fuel issue would be an important step. Obviously, increasing amounts of loan guarantees would be valuable.”
But Rowe wanted to ensure that as a “believer in the free market,” the best solutions would be chosen over time as according to the circumstances. “We have to look at some long-term things—like solar or like next-generation nuclear plants as things we want to get jump-started, but we don’t want to go too far.”
He continued, “As many people here have suggested, what we’re ultimately looking for is to include the cost of climate protection into the marketplace then let the market make choices from decade to decade that none of us are wise enough to make today.”
Rowe provided an assessment of how many nuclear plants will be built in the short and mid-term. “I believe that the six or eight units that are supported by the existing federal loan guarantee program will ... be in operation by 2020. I do not think there will be a significantly larger number than that. If those units are successful, I believe there will be more on line by 2030 but I doubt it will be many tens let alone one hundred.”
Rowe agreed with Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) that the continued low price of natural gas “haunts” hopes for new nuclear plants. “The low-cost solution for the next decade is often natural gas, and that takes pressure off to work on either new nuclear or the more advanced forms of renewable energy.”
Rowe also strongly agreed with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that nuclear energy should be considered equivalent to renewable energy sources in terms of the renewable standard. “A carbon-free goal or set of subsidies would be preferable to renewable-only subsidies,” he affirmed to Alexander.
Other panelists included Preston Chiaro, CEO of Rio Tinto; Willett Kempton, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware; Bob Winger, president of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Local 11; Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund; Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association; and Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.