Despite expecting final approval on new American plants as soon as this week, the incoming head of Cranberry-based Westinghouse Electric Co. said Tuesday the nuclear energy industry still faces strong headwinds from international concerns and domestic competition.
The nuclear industry is in the midst of a renaissance, though it's "not quite the renaissance it was 18 months ago," said Jim Ferland, who becomes the president and CEO of Westinghouse effective April 1.
What's changed: the reaction to the massive meltdown at General Electric-designed plants in Fukushima, Japan, following a tsunami there last March, as well as falling natural gas prices. Gas prices are at their lowest level in a decade, suddenly casting natural gas as a cheaper alternative for electrical supply and lowering the demand for nuclear power, said Mr. Ferland.
Mr. Ferland joined other nuclear industry experts for the opening panel at, "From Its Birthplace: A Symposium on the Future of Nuclear Power," being held at the University of Pittsburgh through today.
Regardless, Mr. Ferland is taking over a company seen as a leading player in domestic nuclear production.
In December, Westinghouse became the first company to get the go ahead to build new domestic nuclear power plants since the Three Mile Island accident of 1979. Its planned nuclear facilities in Georgia and South Carolina received final approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Mr. Ferland said the company expects final approval from the NRC on Friday for two projects in South Carolina.
Erich Schwartzel: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1455.