AE2C’s first event of the fall season took place at the Johns Hopkins Rome Auditorium on Sept 25, 2018. This event was co-sponsored by the Hopkins SAIS Energy & Environment Club and marked the event as the first of a partnership between the two organizations.
After providing perspective and background on the global nuclear energy industry which sees the US losing ground in the commercial nuclear market, moderator Janice Dunn Lee, Deputy Director General Emeritus of the International Atomic Energy Agency, asked the question – what is the key to ensuring a future for the nuclear energy industry domestically and internationally? The answers lie in new innovation, enhanced safety, reduced costs, and greater attention to national security issues.
The panel of experts including Dr. Rita Baranwal (*), Director for the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear at Idaho National Labs, George Gellrich, Senior Vice President of Licensing and Regulatory Corporate Governance and Oversight at Exelon Generation, Ho Nieh, Director, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Amy Roma, Partner at Hogan Lovells LLP and co-author of “Back from the Brink” provided insights on how innovation and national security will impact the future of nuclear energy for years to come. “Nuclear has a lot of benefits but we have to get our costs down,” said Gellrich, “and the way to do that is through innovation, moving from analog to digital and developing advanced reactors.” Baranwal and Nieh agreed. “We are working every day to develop a variety of innovative nuclear technologies that can be used in various applications,” said Baranwal. Along with innovation comes the need for improved safety. “New technologies give us an influential voice in the international nuclear energy community. That community welcomes innovation,” said Nieh. “Technical innovation is the baseline for plant safety, here and around the world” he added.
If innovation gives us a voice, safety and security make that voice stronger. U.S. nuclear power plants are inherently safe, built with the highest safety standards of any industry. These safety standards help form the basis for our national security. The commercial nuclear industry and U.S. national security have been connected since the 1950’s when then President Eisenhower brought nuclear energy onto the electricity grid and away from war, through his Atoms for Peace plan. “It is critical that we preserve our commercial nuclear assets to ensure our national security,” said Roma. “This industry ensures non-proliferation and strong geopolitical influence. It keeps us as the global leader.”
All five speakers agreed that advanced reactor technology is a way to ensure a robust nuclear energy industry in the United States and abroad. These reactors provide extraordinary opportunities for generations to come - opportunities for innovation, enhanced safety and security, and opportunities to ensure a clean, emissions-free energy future for the world.
*On Oct. 3 this week, Dr Rita Baranwal was nominated by President Trump to be Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at US Department of Energy. She directs DOE's Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program and previously served as director of technology development and application at Westinghouse, according to the White House. She is expected to play a key role in White House efforts to save economically struggling nuclear power plants.
Please check out the following links for event photography, Amy Roma’s report and the GAIN program led by Dr. Rita Baranwal: