Steve Tritch, Westinghouse Electric Company's new president and CEO, sees nuclear power as an important element in a broad-based worldwide energy policy that will provide future generations with the responsibly-generated power necessary to fuel economic growth and worldwide standard of living improvements.
W-G: What are the most important issues facing energy policy makers in the United States and elsewhere in the world?
ST: Energy consumption is increasing and will continue to do so, regardless of how well we can conserve. At the same time, environmental considerations relative to greenhouse gases and global warming will continue to be an issue.
Our policymakers, therefore, are challenged to develop and then implement environmentally benign generation programs that will provide the additional electricity necessary to power continued economic expansion and standard-of-living enhancements throughout the world.
W-G: Why can't conservation and a renewed emphasis on efficiency forgo the need for significant additions in power generation capacity?
ST: Conservation and improved efficiency are essential elements in any program designed to fulfill long-term energy requirements in an environmentally responsible manner. However, conservation and efficiency alone are simply not enough.
Here's why: In 40 years, the global population is projected to increase by 50 percent to more than nine billion people. Assume also that the standard of living for the developing world during that time will increase to half of that which it is now in the United States and other developed countries.
To cope with the resultant increase in energy demand, we will need an estimated total of 28 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity to power the world in 2042. That's 2.2 times the current worldwide generation capacity of 12.5 trillion kilowatt hours, or an additional 15.5 trillion kilowatt hours that must be brought on line!
And that assumes that we can improve the world's overall electric power efficiency factor by 50 percent-from about four-tenths of a kilowatt hour of electricity to produce each dollar in goods and services worldwide to just two-tenths of a kilowatt hour, which is a substantial improvement in efficiency.
W-G: How then can we fulfill this projected increase in generating capacity without further polluting the planet?
ST: Each nation must answer this question for itself in light of its own indigenous resources and economic requirements, as well as environmental and geopolitical considerations.
In the United States and elsewhere, though, a prudent answer is beginning to emerge-namely, a balanced mix of a diverse range of energy sources, including coal, hydro, oil, gas, solar, wind, and other "renewables"-plus an increased reliance on nuclear power, perhaps the only "clean" technology that is capable of making a significant addition to future energy needs.
Renewable and alternative fuels today supply only a small fraction of U.S. and worldwide energy needs. This is likely to continue for quite some time as the World Energy Council predicts that all non-hydroelectric renewables will grow only from their present one-half-percent worldwide share to no more than 5 to 8 percent by the year 2020.
Nuclear already accounts for 16 percent of worldwide generation, and is poised and ready to make an even bigger contribution.
W-G: Can the nuclear power industry really meet the challenge?
ST: Absolutely. In fact, we are already beginning to see the signs of a true renaissance in the worldwide nuclear power industry.
In many respects, the industry has never been healthier. In the United States, for example, virtually all of the more than 100 operating plants are operating above 90 percent capacity, generating more than 750 billion kilowatts of electricity in 2001. Technology upgrades and improved operating techniques have enabled these plants to actually increase their output by nearly 30 percent since 1990-the equivalent of putting 22 new 1000-megawatt plants online.
W-G: But what about nuclear new plants? Can they be built and operated competitively?
ST: Even though there have been no new plants ordered in the United States for more than 20 years, the new-plant segment of the industry has remained viable with new plant programs of varying size underway in The Republic of Korea, Japan and elsewhere.
Concurrently, the industry is ready with new plant designs that, while based on proven technology, promise to be even safer, more efficient and cost competitive than the existing fleet.
The Westinghouse AP1000, for example, is based on the proven pressurized water reactor technology that Westinghouse pioneered in the 1950s, but it will be less expensive to build and operate. It also boasts of passive safety systems that will insure a safe and orderly shutdown, even without the requirement of human intervention, in the highly unlikely event of a problem.
And, with a construction schedule of only about three years from first concrete pour to fuel load, it can be built without putting large amounts of capital at risk.
W-G: Can nuclear really compete from a cost perspective?
ST: Measured solely on an economic basis-including operating and maintenance costs, fuel costs, future capital requirements, and administrative expenses-nuclear plants compete extremely well with other sources of electricity in a competitive generation market.
And the trend continues to be encouraging. In the United States, for example, average nuclear production costs have been cut in half, from 3.0 cents per kilowatt hour in 1987 to below 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour in 2001.
W-G: How important is the environmental aspect in helping to make nuclear power more attractive throughout the world?
ST: Most developed nations are implementing stringent environmental goals relating to air pollution and carbon emissions. The goal of the European Union, which has ratified the Kyoto agreement, is to cut carbon emissions back to 1990 levels within the next 10 years. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve those goals without nuclear power. As more and more people come to this realization, nuclear continues to be viewed more favorably. In the United States, support for new nuclear plants is now higher among the general public than at any time in the last 15 years.
Throughout the world, the trend is also positive. The Republic of Korea's program is highly aggressive, and new plants are being planned or built in Japan, China and Finland. Even in countries that have announced gradual nuclear phase-outs, public perceptions are moving back toward a realization that nuclear power is an essential part of any realistic energy policy.
W-G: What then are the challenges facing the nuclear power industry?
ST: First, and most importantly, we must continue to work hard to maintain the public trust by continuously reaffirming and proving our commitment to safety. Our track record has been impressive, but we must constantly remind ourselves, and everyone else, that safety is and will always be our paramount concern.
Second, we have to
do a better job in telling our story. For too long, we talked too much
to ourselves and not enough outside the industry. And then, we were often
Finally, we must strengthen our efforts to attract new people into this industry. It's a bright and vibrant industry, with a good future. I'm happy to say that we at Westinghouse have been successful in this area. Over the last four years, we've hired well over 300 new engineering and computer science graduates, and we are implementing programs that reach into elementary, middle and high schools to encourage the best and the brightest to consider careers in nuclear power.
Steve Tritch is responsible for all Westinghouse commercial nuclear operations and the BNFL fuel business group in the United Kingdom. He became president and CEO of Westinghouse July 1, 2002.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Tritch served as a senior vice president, for Nuclear Fuel, which provides nuclear fuel fabrication, components and services to commercial nuclear power plants throughout the world. Before that assignment, he successfully managed the integration of the former ABB nuclear businesses into Westinghouse Electric Company, and was senior vice president of Nuclear Services.
Mr. Tritch has held numerous managerial and general manager positions since he began his Westinghouse career in 1971 as a product engineer in the Power Circuit Breaker Division. In 1983, he joined the Westinghouse Research and Development Center as manager of naval ship programs, acting as primary interface between Westinghouse divisions and major U.S. Navy shipyards.
Later Mr. Tritch served as manager of training and recruiting for the Westinghouse International Power Systems organization, marketing manager of the Nuclear and Advanced Technology Division, and manager of government systems in the Westinghouse Advanced Energy Systems Division. In 1999, he became manager of the Nuclear Safety Department and in 1992, he was appointed general manager of Engineering Technology.
Mr. Tritch holds a B.S. in
mechanical engineering and an M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh.
He is a member of the American Society of Nuclear Engineers and serves
on the Nuclear Energy Institute's Nuclear Strategy Issues Committee.