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.
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.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 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.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
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.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me