Skip to main content

Nuclear Energy’s Storied History and Bright Future

The following is a guest post from NEI’s President and CEO, Marv Fertel.

Marv Fertel
This year is the 60th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s famous “Atoms for Peace” speech at the United Nations. It also is the 60th anniversary of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) which began its existence on April 10, 1953 as the Atomic Industrial Forum (AIF).

Through its 26 founding members, AIF became the organization that launched the U.S. nuclear industry as it worked to bring the commercial uses of nuclear energy and nuclear materials to benefit America and the rest of the world. We can thank the visionary leaders over the early years, leaders like John Simpson of Westinghouse, Bert Wolfe from General Electric, Jim O’Connor from Commonwealth Edison and many others who guided the industry through tremendous research, technology advancement and promise. During this time, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) played a dual role as both advocate and supporter of technology development as well as the safety regulator.

The 1970s saw great change in America’s energy demand and supply. As a result of the mideast oil embargoes, the world experienced the double whammy of a deep recession and double-digit inflation. Electricity demand in America plummeted from 7 percent and 10 percent annual growth rates to 1 percent to 2 percent. Hundreds of new power plants, both nuclear and coal, were cancelled. Even in these circumstances, our industry completed 81 reactors during the period 1960-1980 making nuclear energy our second largest source of electricity after coal. Also during this time the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was established as an independent regulator of nuclear safety.

During the mid-'70s, our industry leaders saw the need for a focused congressional lobbying organization and established the American Nuclear Energy Counsel (ANEC), initially led by John Conway from Consolidated Edison Company and George Gleason who came from AIF. Tom Kuhn, currently the CEO at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), was actually the second CEO at ANEC.

Then, in 1979 we experienced the accident at Three Mile Island (TMI). While the accident had no public safety consequences, it did significantly expand our industry’s focus on operational safety – a focus that then and now has made nuclear energy much safer. Through the leadership of individuals like Bill Lee, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) was formed to focus our industry on always striving for excellence in operations. To address public education and communications the U.S. Council for Energy Awareness (USCEA) was established with Harry Finger as its CEO.

Later in the '80s, Byron Lee and Joe Colvin became the leaders of NUMARC, the Nuclear Utility Management and Resources Committee, established by the utilities to interface with the NRC on generic technical and regulatory issues.

Finally in 1994, the industry's leaders consolidated ANEC, USCEA, NUMARC and the nuclear fuels and waste activities at EEI into one organization, the Nuclear Energy Institute, to provide a unified voice to foster the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and technology in America and around the world.

I’ve had the honor and pleasure to have worked in our industry since 1968 in engineering, licensing, building plants and supporting operating plants. I spent two years at AIF when its headquarters was in New York in the early '70s. I joined USCEA as the vice president for technical programs in 1990 and moved to NEI when it was established in 1994. This journey has been very rewarding-mostly because of the wonderful men and women in our industry I’ve had the good fortune to work with and get to know every step of the way.

The theme for NEI's 60th anniversary is “Storied History, Bright Future.” We will celebrate our history over a 60-day period from April 10 to June 8 including events at NEI’s Nuclear Energy Assembly, May 13-15 in Washington, D.C. and with special events with current and former employees and members.

So much has happened that we can be proud of and can learn from over the last 60 years. Our bright future is exemplified by the more than 9,500 young women and men who comprise our North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) and the almost 5,600 members of U.S. Women In Nuclear (WIN). In just under five weeks, hundreds of NAYGN members will join us in D.C. at the Nuclear Energy Assembly, bringing enthusiasm, knowledge and energy. The bright future is also evidenced by the five new nuclear energy facilities under construction (V.C. Summer in South Carolina, Vogtle in Georgia, and Watts Bar in Tennessee), the expansion of our domestic uranium enrichment facilities, the construction of the MOX facility at the Savannah River site and the more than 70 nuclear plants under construction and 164 planned worldwide.

The foundation of this bright future is based on the real value that nuclear energy and nuclear materials bring to mankind. Whether it’s how nuclear medicine helps save lives, how nuclear materials do everything from enhancing food supplies to checking welds and filling beverage cans, or how nuclear energy provides reliable clean air electricity 24/7, our quality of life in America and worldwide is significantly enhanced. It is for reasons like this that Bill Gates is pursuing advanced nuclear technology and that environmental leaders like Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, have become nuclear energy advocates.

As we look to the future we must always keep our focus on safety as our top priority when operating our facilities and handling radioactive materials. Also, those of us who have experienced the storied history of our industry have a responsibility to effectively transfer knowledge to the extremely talented young women and men who will become our future leaders. As we navigate the various challenges facing our industry, NEI and its 350+ member organizations will continue to strive toward our vision: nuclear energy is recognized as an indispensable part of America’s energy security, environmental stewardship and economic development in the 21st century.

Let’s enjoy the celebration.

Comments

jimwg said…
I really think this needs immediate attention in lieu this cheerful feature:

http://atomicinsights.com/2013/04/jaczko-comes-out-as-avowed-antinuclear-activist.html

James Greenidge
Queens NY
Anonymous said…
scroll down

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…