Skip to main content

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.

Comments

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…
Leslie,
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

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…