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Leslie Barbour Retires Leaving NEI and the Industry Poised for Growth

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).  

Leslie Barbour
Senator Pete Domenici gave his “A New Nuclear Paradigm” speech at Harvard in October 1997 and our world shifted. Alex Flint, Domenici’s appropriations clerk then and my SVP at NEI now, and Dr. Pete Lyons, his senior policy advisor then, and Assistant Secretary of Energy now, helped write what is now considered the call to change course in U.S. nuclear energy policy. Industry, academia and policymakers answered his challenge. NEI CEO Joe Colvin who had given the green light for NEI staff to pursue license renewal for the current fleet asked NEI members to support new plants as well. NEI governmental affairs achieved significant legislative victories from 2000-2002 in designating Yucca Mountain as the national site for used fuel and establishing a cost-shared program with the government called Nuclear Power 2010 to deploy new reactors in the U.S. NEI accomplished even greater legislative success with the passage of the Energy Policy Act in 2005 (EPACT 2005) that provided loan guarantees, production tax credits, extension of Price Anderson and authorization for continued federal government support for nuclear energy R&D. Thanks to Sen. Domenici and Rep. Biggert, EPACT 2005 also restored the DOE Assistant Secretary position in the Office of Nuclear Energy.

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
Finally, as membership chair of the DC Women in Nuclear chapter for the last four years I have been able to make good friends with an amazing group of women who work in support of nuclear energy. Women in Nuclear and the NA-YGN program are organizations helping to groom future leaders for the industry and deserve our time, talent and financial support.    

NEI wishes Leslie a fond farewell and thanks her for her service to the nuclear energy industry.


Angie Howard said…
Kudos to you Leslie for all the many things you have done and for which you have been recognized. But also thank you for all the many unheralded kind acts and professional networking and mentoring you have done for so many people in our industry. All the best for the future.
Angie Howard2900
Anonymous said…
Thanks for all your hard work! The NESD has been one of the most interesting, informative, useful, and exciting programs I've been able to be a part of, and it wouldn't be here without you! Have fun!
Nick Thompson

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