NEI's Korsnick talks the future of nuclear power
"This is an important time for our nation and our industry," said Maria Korsnick, the newly elected president and chief executive officer for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), effective Jan. 1, in a media call this morning (Oct. 14). Korsnick was introduced by Don Brandt, NEI chairman (and president and CEO of Pinnacle West Capital Corp.).
Korsnick started as an engineer and then worked her way up through utility ranks to a chief nuclear officer position. She began at a regulated utility that was vertically integrated, deregulated and then merged into a larger fleet. Currently she's the chief operating officer for the Nuclear Energy Institute, with the next step laid out for 2017, when she'll be leading NEI's pro-nuclear push.
"When it comes to nuclear energy, there really is bipartisan support in Congress and with both presidential candidates," Korsnick said in an overview of today's nuclear viewpoint, noting that cross-party agreement was a bit unusual in such a contested election cycle. "I am truly passionate about the role nuclear energy can plan for the nation and the world. I consider it the unsung hero of our energy mix."
Education, relation-building, clean energy standards, state strategies and outreach are all on the agenda for Korsnick's NEI role next year.
"Fundamentally, there are things that nuclear brings to the market that aren't valued," Korsnick noted in a discussion with media. That nuclear is a form of clean energy being one of the items Korsnick brought up in the discussion.
"We need to recognize the environmental 'kindness' that nuclear brings to the table," she added.
This market issue (of being undervalued) is just one of the issues Korsnick talked about facing during her tenure at NEI. She also touched on lack of subsidies and credits for nuclear, which make their placement in the market a little behind the 8-ball compared to other fuel sources.
"We need to look at evening that playing field," she said. "I would look to that as a bridging strategy."
Korsnick added that personnel changes at the top of the Administration, as well as at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will, of course, influence the future of nuclear conversations, as well, along with concerns with used fuel and long-term storage strategies---the talk of which has stretched back for years, before the controversy over Yucca Mountain.
[Editor's note: Yucca Mountain was a national nuclear waste repository in Nevada which began as an amendment idea in 1987, was approved in 2002 and faced a virtual funding shutdown in 2011. The shutdown leaves nuclear utilities storing waste onsite rather than having long-term storage options.]
Korsnick noted, in a response to a journalist question, that NEI is looking to "get the nuclear message" out there through digital, through innovation and to "be creative" in that arena. The challenge, of course, is that customers on the end really just expect electricity and don't understand power as a commodity. She circled back to pushing how "kind" nuclear is to the environment is one "marketing" angle that can help promote nuclear with a positive message.
Korsnick also touched on cost savings and efficiency programs that NEI has been working on, the challenges of state policies and regional transmission level policies, and the importance of keeping on top of positions---to keep the nuclear value conversation going.
More information on nuclear generation problems, progress and processes can be found at NEI's website, including background on:
- Improving the Economics of America’s Nuclear Power Plants
- US Industry Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Accident
- Nuclear Energy Representation at the UN Climate Conference in Paris
- EPA’s Clean Power Plan & Nuclear Energy
- Continued Storage of Used Nuclear Fuel
- 316(b) and the Nuclear Energy Industry
- Seismic Protection at Nuclear Energy Facilities
- Loan Guarantee Finalized for Vogtle 3 & 4
- Megatons to Megawatts Program Ends
- Nuclear Industry CNOs Visit Japanese Counterparts
- Electricity Market Challenges Confronting Nuclear Energy
Korsnick has served as NEI’s chief operating officer since May 2015 as a loaned executive from Exelon Generation and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG). In that role, she has guided NEI’s day-to-day operations and represented the industry before a multitude of stakeholders—including the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Obama administration, Congress, state lawmakers, international nuclear professionals, think tanks and policymakers.
She will succeed Marvin Fertel, who retires on Dec. 31 after nine years as NEI’s president and CEO.