Nuclear Power International Panel: Economics, Policy, and Regulation

Erin L. Webb

On December 9, 2014, I participated as one of the speakers on a panel at the Nuclear Power International conference in Orlando, Florida. The session focused on the unique regulations and procedures that workers and plant operators must follow in order to keep the public and the staff safe. We also discussed the market conditions affecting nuclear power, including the challenges the industry faces from competing power generating sources such as natural gas. Rick Higginbotham of GE Power & Water and Clayton T. Smith of Fluor served as co-chairs and led the discussion.

In my presentation I talked about industry-specific insurance issues concerning nuclear power plants, and explained the available options for liability and property damage insurance. I also provided important tips to keep in mind in the event of a property damage claim. Understanding how these policies work, and the importance of prompt notice as well as the often complicated and technical process of filing a detailed proof of loss with the insurer, can be key to maximizing a policy’s value. Finally, I discussed some emerging issues that may have significant impacts on future insurance products, such as the development of small modular reactors and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent action concerning continued storage of spent nuclear fuel. Changes in technology, as well as changes to the applicable regulatory scheme, can spur changes to the exposure and risk a plant faces, and should be addressed in the insurance policies purchased to mitigate those risks.

Next, Michelle Brown from Sentis discussed the corporate culture of safety from a psychological perspective. Colin Enssle from GE Power & Water provided an analysis of recent and developing environmental and water regulations in the United States, and highlighted how regulation has different effects on different industries, such as coal, nuclear, and gas. Finally, Ed Wolbert from Transco Products Inc. explained the current market situation in China, which is rapidly developing its nuclear power industry.

The panelists then answered questions from the attendees, which focused primarily on the effect of domestic and international regulation on the nuclear industry. I noted that political risk insurance can potentially cover certain international situations, such as a foreign government’s expropriation or confiscation of assets, or governmental frustration or repudiation of contracts.

Nuclear Power International is one of several co-located conferences that were part of Power Generation Week at the Orange County Convention Center in December 2014. Together these conferences focus on several aspects of the power generation industry, including nuclear energy, renewable energy, and project financing. Both NPI and Power-Gen are great sources to learn about the complex and interesting world that is the power generation industry.

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