Despite the March 2011 destruction by a tsunami of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s six reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power and its ongoing pollution problems, the nuclear energy in the U.S. has weathered the storm, so to speak.
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates the international marketplace for civil nuclear technology at $500 to $740 billion over the next ten years, with the potential to generate more than $100 billion in U.S. exports and thousands of new jobs.
The International Atomic Energy Agency Nuclear Technology Review projects significant growth in the use of nuclear energy worldwide, between 35% and 100% by 2030.
The International Energy Agency has reached similar conclusions. In its “World Energy Outlook 2012,” the IEA concluded that while nuclear power would expand more slowly due to Fukushima and lower prices for fossil fuels, by 2035 nuclear generating capacity could increase to 580 gigawatts of electricity, compared to 371 gigawatts in 2010.
Driving this is the undeniable fact that worldwide electricity demand is surging, particularly in emerging economies. By 2035, as much as 80 percent of this growth will take place in China, India and other non-OECD countries.
Assuming that the above predictions are correct, then the U.S. has certain market advantages, with top-performing companies all along the nuclear value chain. According to the World Nuclear Association, 12 of the world’s 25 highest-performing reactors are in the United States.
For the past year the U.S. nuclear industry has had a powerful advocate in Washington – the U.S. government. On May 15, 2013 the State Department’s Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller delivered an address, "Geopolitics and Nuclear Energy: The View from the State Department" to an audience at the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington.
Gottemoeller outlined the Obama administrations pro-nuclear energy stance for her audience in detail, remarking, “It may not be the first impulse of export firm executives to think of the U.S. Government as a business asset, but there is much that we can do to help. We are developing what we call a ‘Team USA’ approach to civil nuclear engagement abroad. In January 2012, the White House created a new position - Director of Nuclear Energy Policy – to lead this effort. Going forward, this will help us present a unified U.S. message on these issues and increase our presence in the civil nuclear commercial spaces.”
Another service described by Gottemoeller that the government provides is advocacy from the Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center, which would then coordinate with the State Department and other U.S. government agencies through active diplomacy with the host country to place governmental support behind the American bidder. Gottemoeller added that even when more than one American firm bids on a nuclear power plant, “Team USA” could be able to engage in generic advocacy, expressing to the host government its support for a U.S. firm winning the contract.
Finally, “Team USA” also tries to ensure that a foreign government’s decisions are being made in a transparent manner on a “level playing field.” Gottemoeller told her audience that “Our diplomatic posts are sensitive to any evidence that undue influence is affecting a host government’s decision, and those posts are prepared to protest unwarranted discrimination against U.S sellers.”
Gottemoeller concluded her remarks by saying, “Let me close by reaffirming the Administration’s support for American nuclear exports. You all face stiff competition on the international market, but you also have strong resources to draw upon. I want to avoid the cliché, but we are here to help, and I hope we continue to work closely together in the future.”
Accordingly, the Obama administration’s has committed itself to securing for U.S. nuclear energy companies as large a share as possible of the projected $500 to $740 billion civilian nuclear energy market on a “level playing field” against “stiff competition.”
By John Daly of Oilprice.com