Skip to main content

Jim Asselstine's Bullish Assessment of Nuclear Energy’s Future

Jim Asselstine
The following is a guest post submitted by Scott Peterson, NEI's senior vice president of communications.

SINGAPORE--Jim Asselstine has an unparalleled pedigree to assess the nuclear energy industry. He has analyzed the industry for the past 23 years at Lehman Brothers and Barclays, was a Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner and punched his policy credential as a congressional staffer.

“My own personal view is that we should try to keep nuclear power, as the only zero-carbon, large-scale baseload generating source at about its current level of 19 or 20 percent of U.S. [electric] generation,” Asselstine said during a clear-eyed assessment of America’s nuclear energy industry. He was speaking at the World Nuclear Fuel Conference, a global symposium in Singapore sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute and World Nuclear Association.

Assuming modest electricity demand growth and with the closure of existing reactors after 60 years of production, Asselstine said meeting this goal would require building 30 to 35 reactors by 2030. Whether the industry builds advanced reactor technology at that pace, he said, depends on these factors:
  • Electricity demand must increase with economic rejuvenation.
  • Increases in natural gas prices, forecasted by Barclays to move to $3.70 per million Btu by the end of this year, up from $2.82 per million Btu in 2012.
  • New Environmental Protection Agency regulations affecting coal-fired power plants, including the announced closure of 25,000 megawatts of coal capacity already and up to 50,000 to 60,000 megawatts of coal capacity by 2015.
  • The focused response to the Fukushima accident in Japan both by industry and the NRC. “I regard the NRC requirements and industry initiatives as comprehensive and complementary,” he said.
  • Industry and NRC must effectively carry out their responsibilities under a new regulatory framework for building new reactors.
Ironically, Asselstine said this is an exceptional time for energy companies to build large capital projects.

“The industry enjoys broad access to financing at historically attractive rates,” he said. “As a defensive safe haven sector, the electric utilities—unlike many other industries—were able to access the debt capital markets during even the most difficult period in the recession in late 2008 and early 2009. This is an excellent time to finance significant capital investments in the industry.”
It’s appropriate that the industry’s fuel companies are gathering in Singapore. Seventy-one reactors are being built worldwide, with the majority of these projects located in Asia to meet fast-rising electricity demand.

The International Energy Agency predicts that electricity demand will expand by more than 70 percent by 2035, or 2.2 percent per year on average. More than 80 percent of that growth will be in non-OECD countries—more than half in China and India alone.

Growth in China’s electricity demand alone over that period is greater than the total current electricity demand in the United States and Japan combined. China has 26 reactors under construction and the country aims to quadruple its nuclear capacity from reactors now operating and under construction by 2020. India has seven reactors under construction; 20 others are planned. Asselstine said he expects the majority of these projects to be completed despite the 2011 accident in Japan.

On the U.S. response to the Fukushima accident, Asselstine said “the industry and NRC responses have been constructive and timely, and should prove effective in addressing the lessons learned for the industry. The review process helped set priorities for the various recommendations, focusing the agency’s and industry’s efforts on a set of changes that can be implemented relatively quickly to produce substantial near-term safety improvements.”

Comments

trag said…
Maybe I'm having trouble with the language, but how is "we should try to keep nuclear power, ...at about its current level"

a bullish assessment? It's a disaster. We need an immediate expansion of nuclear generating capacity.

You guys are meant to be the industry's public face. Get out in front of the PR race.

Confront Jaczko and his history and lack of credentials. Point out that he's just re-warming old anti-nuke propaganda and that his voice has no authority because he's never done a useful lick of work in his life. All he's ever been is a political hack.

You need to be selling the green CO2 free future nuclear can bring us with plentiful electricity, a high standard of living and affordable prices, and contrast it with the "green" vision of high electricity prices, and intrusive "smart" meters telling people when to do every activity and at what temperature to keep their homes, if they can afford heating and cooling at all.
Anonymous said…
Out of less than 10% of nameplate capacity, US nuclear produces almost 20% of US electric generation.  We should be aiming at 70%, if not more.

That would require about 250 GW(e) of new capacity.  There are plenty of places we could start with that.
Engineer-Poet said…
With less than 10% of US nameplate generating capacity, US nuclear plants produce nearly 20% of total electric generation.

We should be aiming at 70% or more, so at least another 225-250 GW(e) of capacity.  I can suggest a number of places to begin that aren't even large LWRs.

Popular posts from this blog

Why Ex-Im Bank Board Nominations Will Turn the Page on a Dysfunctional Chapter in Washington

In our present era of political discord, could Washington agree to support an agency that creates thousands of American jobs by enabling U.S. companies of all sizes to compete in foreign markets? What if that agency generated nearly billions of dollars more in revenue than the cost of its operations and returned that money – $7 billion over the past two decades – to U.S. taxpayers? In fact, that agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), was reauthorized by a large majority of Congress in 2015. To be sure, the matter was not without controversy. A bipartisan House coalition resorted to a rarely-used parliamentary maneuver in order to force a vote. But when Congress voted, Ex-Im Bank won a supermajority in the House and a large majority in the Senate. For almost two years, however, Ex-Im Bank has been unable to function fully because a single Senate committee chairman prevented the confirmation of nominees to its Board of Directors. Without a quorum

New Home for Our Blog: Join Us on NEI.org

On February 27, NEI launched the new NEI.org . We overhauled the public site, framing all of our content around the National Nuclear Energy Strategy. So, what's changed? Our top priority was to put you, the user, first. Now you can quickly get the information you need.  You'll enjoy visiting the site with its intuitive navigation, social media integration and compelling and shareable visuals.  We've added a feature called Nuclear Now, which showcases the latest industry news and resources like fact sheets and reports. It's one of the first sections you'll see on our home page and it can be accessed anywhere throughout the site by clicking on the atom symbol in the top right corner of the page. Most importantly for you, our loyal NEI Nuclear Notes readers, is that we've migrated the blog to the new site. Moving forward,  all blog posts will be published in the News section , along with our press releases, Nuclear Energy Overview stories and more. Just l

Hurricane Harvey Couldn't Stop the South Texas Project

The South Texas Project As Hurricane Harvey battered southeast Texas over the past week, the devastation and loss of life in its wake have kept our attention and been a cause of grief. Through the tragedy, many stories of heroics and sacrifice have emerged. Among those who have sacrificed are nearly 250 workers who have been hunkered down at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear plant in Matagorda County, Texas. STP’s priorities were always the safety of their employees and the communities they serve. We are proud that STP continued to operate at full power throughout the storm. It is a true testament to the reliability and resiliency of not only the operators but of our industry. The world is starting to notice what a feat it is to have maintained operations through the catastrophic event. Forbes’ Rod Adams did an excellent job describing the contribution of these men and women : “STP storm crew members deserve to be proud of the work that they are doing. Their famil