Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Dr. Regis Matzie

Westinghouse Electric Company

Dr. Regis A. Matzie
Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
Westinghouse Electric Company

U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Concerning Next Generation Nuclear Plant Project

June 12, 2006

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, it is an honor to present the views of Westinghouse Electric Company on the state of U.S. nuclear energy development.  I have been working in the commercial nuclear energy industry for over 30 years and this is the most exciting time of my career.  Current nuclear plants are performing at unparalleled levels with excellent economics and safety.  A large group of power companies have announced plans to apply for combined construction and operating licenses, which is a key step in the construction of new nuclear plants.  Many other countries also planning to expand their nuclear fleets, and others are looking to the United States for direction, for the signal that the time has come to rely more on clean, environmental friendly nuclear power, and less on fossil fuels. 

Westinghouse has a long history of technology leadership in commercial nuclear energy.  We build the first U.S. commercial nuclear plant at Shippingport, PA, in 1957.  We are proud that we have been making the investments in new reactor technology over the past decades that have prepared us for the current nuclear Renaissance.  Our AP1000 advanced passive plant received Design Certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission this past December.  This has given many power companies the confidence that they can move forward with their planning on new plant construction based on our already approved AP1000 design.  It is imperative that the U.S. Department of Energy continue to show the leadership it initiated with its Nuclear Power 2010 program and help launch this Renaissance as quickly as possible while the momentum is strong.  This should be the highest priority of the Department, because without the renewal of new plant build based on advanced light water reactors such as AP1000, there will not be a nuclear Renaissance.

Congress showed tremendous foresight in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 when it authorized the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program, whereby a high temperature gas-cooled reactor was to be built at the Idaho National Laboratory with the duel mission of demonstrating co-generation of hydrogen and electricity.  The reason that I characterize this provision of the Act as such is that it opens up the use of nuclear energy beyond its current mission of electricity production to other sectors of the energy market.  High temperature reactors can be used to provide environmentally friendly process heat for a broad range of applications, including syngas production, coal-to-liquid petroleum conversion, and hydrogen production.  By developing and demonstrating these process heat applications, we can move toward a hydrogen economy in the near term.  We do not have to wait for the development of hydrogen distribution and storage systems.  We do not have to develop an economical hydrogen-fuelled car.  Instead, we can use the existing industrial infrastructure of the chemical and transportation sectors.  This will help stabilize fossil fuel prices.  This would help our nation become less dependent on foreign imported fossil fuels at a time when energy security is prominent in our minds and would make a significant additional contribution to greenhouse gas reduction.

I strongly encourage Congress to press forward with the development of gas-cooled reactors – to provide for and press the Department of Energy to fully launch the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program.  This should be done as a public-private partnership program with the strong involvement of both the commercial nuclear industry and the fossil fuels industry.  This will help ensure that the program is commercially relevant and that it is accomplished in the most economical and timely way possible.  The program should also build on key developments in other countries, like the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, being demonstrated in the Republic of South Africa.  This electric plant demonstration   program is progressing well with both strong government and investor commitment to completion.  A part of this program includes large-scale testing facilities that will be of use by a U.S.-based program for high temperature gas reactors, at a significant savings to the U.S. taxpayer.  This program should also be used to leverage design development, materials selection, and component specification to accelerate the program here in the U.S., so that the mission of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program can be demonstrated within a 10 year period.

As evident today with the Nuclear Power 2010 program, the “long pole” in commercializing new nuclear reactor technologies is the regulatory process.  Again, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor program can be of help to the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program because this design is already being reviewed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Generic high temperature gas-cooled reactor licensing issues are being addressed by the Commission as a precursor to formal Design Certification application.  These issues are germane to both electricity and process heat applications.  By helping to accelerate the review of these generic issues and driving for a timely completion of the review, a robust Next Generation Nuclear Plant licensing program can be completed to support plant operations by 2016.

In summary, I strongly encourage Congress to “stay the course” that it has directed in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  To drive for early deployment of advanced light water reactors by fully funding the Nuclear Power 2010 program. To fully launch the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program to demonstrate nuclear co-generation with the objective of completion of the demonstration reactor within 10 years through the establishment of a public private partnership, including strong international cooperation.

I thank you for your time and attention.