My International Political Analysis class (above) at INSEAD ended in a bang today with an unlikely partnership between the United States and Russia. The class is all about the non-market environment in business and for the last two weeks, we've been doing a simulation centered around the nuclear energy industry, which is notorious for these non-market issues. In the nuclear industry, we are faced with challenges from all sides: policymakers, regulators, media, and the public. You can have the best technology in the world at the best price and still not be able to sell it because of political or public opinion issues. Therefore the nuclear industry was the perfect industry to learn about non-market strategy.
The simulation is centered around a bid for a new nuclear power plant in India. Classmates play different stakeholders, including the Indian Prime Minister and Cabinet, companies vying for the bid, heads of state, media, anti-nuclear activists such as Greenpeace, and civil society. I was allocated the CEO of Rosatom, not my first choice but it turned out to be quite an interesting role.
Our strategy in the simulation included positioning Rosatom as the nuclear company that could provide all services and leveraging the existing relationship between President Putin and Prime Minister Modi. We issued press releases and lobbied the Indian Ministers. It was certainly fun for me to have so much existing knowledge to add to the game and many of my classmates came to me to ask me about nuclear energy and the strategies they should deploy.
After two weeks of back and forth emails and chats between the stakeholders and posts by media in the simulation, we held a mock "World Economic Forum" in class where our aliases were revealed and the companies made their cases for the bid. Modi wanted to be on the good side of both the U.S. and Russia so he asked us to bid together. A Rosatom/Westinghouse partnership would of course be very unlikely (and illegal due to sanctions) but our proposal was still very attractive for India.
After questions from the press and deliberations by the Cabinet, our Rosatom/Westinghouse proposal was selected for the nuclear plant! This was exciting for me, obviously, but I did have an advantage over the others as a nuclear policy expert. It was a great chance for me to talk to the world's future business leaders about nuclear energy.
Some interesting things that came out of the simulation were that the companies were very eager to partner with each other and form consortiums for a nuclear power plant bid. This doesn't really happen in reality because of differing technologies by different companies. However, the rest of the simulation was quite reflective of the real business world with backdoor dealings between politicians, probing questions from media, and protests by Greenpeace.
Even though my degrees are in nuclear engineering, I've focused on policy and public opinion issues in nuclear energy because they are what really drive the industry. All of the new reactor technologies are advanced and safe but need political and public support to be commissioned. With further analysis, you can see that the "Atoms for Peace" mentality is still very much alive because countries are using commercial nuclear reactors as a means for forging political relationships. This is evident by the recent agreements made between the U.S. and India on commercial nuclear energy.
So if nuclear weapons are the currency of power, are nuclear reactors the currency of peace?