NAM sees nuclear power as a renaissance in the works

As U.S. manufacturers respond to the immediate challenges posed by the current high price of natural gas and transportation fuels, another, longer-term energy crisis looms. America’s demand for electricity is projected to rise by more than 40% over the next 25 years as the country’s population and economy grow.


As U.S. manufacturers respond to the immediate challenges posed by the current high price of natural gas and transportation fuels, another, longer-term energy crisis looms.

America’s demand for electricity is projected to rise by more than 40% over the next 25 years as the country’s population and economy grow. At the same time, China and other developing nations will compete vigorously for global oil and gas supplies, even as short-sighted policies threaten U.S. access to its own domestic energy resources.

Given this daunting economic forecast, manufacturers have an obvious and pressing need for a reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible source of energy, especially one that can provide new baseload electricity production. Fortunately, such a source already exists: nuclear power.

Nuclear power is gaining newfound appreciation as a key to America’s future energy security. The National Association of Manufacturers strongly supports its expansion as part of a robust and diverse energy mix.

Nuclear power currently accounts for about one-fifth of America’s electricity generation, produced at 103 commercial reactors in 31 states. Rocked by the public reaction to the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, the commercial nuclear power industry has struggled in recent decades, with the last plant coming on line a decade ago in Tennessee.

But as America’s energy crisis intensifies %%MDASSML%% and technological advances ensure the safety of nuclear power %%MDASSML%% prospects for a nuclear renaissance have brightened. The 2005 Energy Policy Act included several provisions to stimulate investment in nuclear power plants, most notably production tax credits for new plants and loan guarantees the use of emission-reducing technology.

“It is no longer a matter of debate whether there will be new nuclear plants in the industry’s future,” Fitch Ratings commented in a March 2006 report, reflecting the improved investment climate. “Now, the discussion has shifted to predictions of how many, where and when.”

Benefits for manufacturers

For manufacturers, nuclear power is particularly desirable because it can replace natural gas in the production of baseline electricity. This substitution allows a more efficient use of natural gas as a feed stock and to address peak demand, while preserving petroleum products’ use for transportation fuel.

Environmental concerns are also contributing to the new acceptance of nuclear energy. Nuclear power is emissions free, producing none of the carbon dioxide blamed for global warming. Indeed, Patrick Moore, a founder of the environmentalist group Greenpeace, has emerged as a leading nuclear spokesman.

“Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power,” Moore wrote recently in the Washington Post. “And these days it can do so safely.”

Admittedly the U.S. has a long way to go. For nuclear energy to maintain even its current 20% share of U.S. electricity supply, 40 to 50 new large plants must be built during the next quarter-century.

Meanwhile, America’s global competitors grasp nuclear power’s potential. Last year Beijing announced plans to build 30 new reactors, and India seeks to increase its nuclear power production one-hundred-fold by the year 2050. France remains a world leader, producing about 80% of its electricity through nuclear power and even exporting $33 billion worth of energy a year.

If the U.S is to compete effectively, we must look at a “fast track” licensing process that allows construction of several plants using the same blueprints and technology. Approval for a new plant could proceed quickly for another site if the plant were, essentially, the same model.

The waste issue, a legitimate concern, can be addressed on a rational basis through use of the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada and continued research and development of processing and disposal technologies.

The U.S. has a choice to make as it faces its future energy needs: accept a darker, less prosperous future defined by limited supply, or pursue diverse sources of power, including nuclear energy.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me