There are 70 nuclear power reactors under construction in the world today (only 4 in the U.S.) and 100+ are expected in the next wave. With the largest and longest-running nuclear industry, it is important for the U.S. to share expertise in construction, operation, and safety. Shahkarami explains that plants with the same proven technology can function differently because of human performance. Safety culture is imperative to successfully running a nuclear power plant.
Sharing operating experience allows the U.S. to be involved in international nuclear power programs even without directly selling technology, which is limited to countries that have negotiated 123 Agreements with the U.S. While boosting our own economy we can also ensure that other plants are built and operated in a safe manner. Proposed changes to nuclear export control procedures are hopefully going to streamline the process of working with other countries. An accident at a plant anywhere in the world affects the entire industry.
In his own opinion, Shahkarami says that closing nuclear plants in the U.S. for economic reasons is a national security issue in terms of dependable energy supply. This started a discussion between ANS members at the meeting. Low natural gas prices are causing many utilities, including Exelon, to close or consider closing nuclear plants. The problem is that utilities are paid the same rate for electricity, regardless of the source and without consideration for how dependable that source is. Read more on this topic in my recent post.
Amir Shahkarami was a great speaker for the ANS Chicago Section and inspired important dialogue between members. It’s not often that you get to talk to an industry CEO that is doing important work around the world.