The following is a guest post by Leslie Barbour, Director of Legislative Programs for NEI.
After 21 years working at the Nuclear Energy Institute as an industry lobbyist, I retire today with a great sense of accomplishment for what the industry has achieved during this time. When I was hired in 1993, the industry was negotiating a success path for used fuel disposal that would enable companies to ship fuel to Yucca Mountain, Nevada. President Clinton had just appointed Hazel O’Leary as the first woman and first African American Secretary of Energy. We soon realized that nuclear energy was not a favored energy option of the Administration when she demoted the Office of Nuclear Energy’s leadership from Assistant Secretary to Director. The Administration then began cutting nuclear energy R&D funding from $147 million in 1994 to $2 million in 1998. The only program left was support for universities. The industry suffered the loss of the gas reactor and sodium cooled reactor programs by close votes in the House and the Senate. The only reactor technology that survived the 1990s was the advanced light water reactor technology program (ALWR).
I am proud to say that my nine years of work with the NEI members on the cost-shared Nuclear Power 2010 program achieved its objective with the building of Westinghouse reactors in South Carolina and Georgia. After 40 years, critics of nuclear power can no longer say that there have been no new reactors ordered in U.S.
|Tribute to Leslie Barbour by Rep. Mike Simpson|
Back in 1997 and 1998, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) endorsed four nuclear energy programs that should be supported by the federal government. PCAST said DOE should have a university program, a program focused on the current reactor fleet, a new reactor program and an international program. I am happy to say all of these programs are currently funded by the government under a DOE Office of Nuclear Energy budget of $889 million; a far cry from a mere $2 million in 1998.
I have one last observation on the importance of acknowledging new voices in our midst when change is needed. Since 1994, university students have come to Washington annually as the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation (NESD). This geographically diverse group raised the alarm on the declining number of nuclear engineering departments and the dwindling federal government resources devoted to nuclear engineering and science disciplines. I would like to thank the more than 200 students over the last 20 years who have taken on the responsibility to challenge national policymakers to support nuclear energy. Some of these students are now in professional positions at DOE, in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate making a significant difference in Washington. I am grateful the American Nuclear Society recognized my contribution to helping NESD and sustaining university nuclear engineering and science disciplines by awarding me a Presidential Citation last year.
|William Magwood and Leslie Barbour|