Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nuclear Energy Summit Identifies Policy, Communications Challenges

Photos: Third Way

Tuesday, three of us from PCG attended an important summit here in Washington on the future of nuclear energy. At the New Millennium Nuclear Energy Summit, energy policy makers from the Obama Administration and Congress met with leaders from utilities and energy companies to consider how to bring more clean nuclear energy to the United States. The Summit was sponsored by Third Way, a Washington-based think tank, and the Idaho National Lab (INL), the nation’s lead nuclear energy lab. INL Lab Director John Grossenbacher and Third Way founder Matt Bennett facilitated the discussion among 25 principals.

The big news: Energy Secretary Steven Chu voiced his support for a clean energy standard that would require utilities to generate 25% of their power from clean energy sources, including nuclear energy and clean coal, by 2025. The many journalists who covered the Summit led with this news in their stories Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), George Voinovich (R-OH) and Jim Risch (R-ID) and Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) voiced their support for this new clean energy standard.

As the Summit unfolded, it became clear that we as communicators have much work to do in educating the new Congress and the public about why capital intensive nuclear power plants are a good investment in America’s energy future. Former New York Power Authority CEO John Dyson noted that both the Niagara Falls hydro-electric facility and New York’s nuclear power plants were not low cost energy sources when they were built, but they are now. Investments in nuclear energy today will follow the same path.

White House Director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner cited the White House’s drive to add money to the loan guarantee funds, defined the major issue as finding ways for nuclear energy to be competitive without a cost of carbon, and noted the importance of the nuclear energy industry to the nation’s competitiveness. “We were once at the forefront of this industry, and we need to regain this position,” she said.

Industry executives vigorously supported these ideas and articulated many others:

• Development of a clean energy bank that would include funding for nuclear energy projects.
• A federal integrated resource plan that would essentially form a national energy policy that would be consistent from administration to administration.
• Clean energy parks can address citing issues for a variety of clean energy sources.
• Recognition that investments in U.S. nuclear energy plants will provide a platform for increased exports and serve as a stimulus with results – jobs and clean air energy.
• Finding ways to incent utilities or governments for long-term power purchase agreements.

There was real news from both policy makers and industry. More than 30 journalists attended, and just a day hours after the event, I count more than 70 articles (ranging from The New York Times, POLITICO, Energy Daily and Platts) and many blogs covering the Summit. It just shows that real news generates significant and objective media coverage.

- Mimi Limbach, Potomac Communications Group

1 comment:

  1. You can find more media coverage of the event at