There are expectations that the nuclear industry is entering a sustained period of expansion which will see construction of nuclear reactors throughout the world during the next 20-25 years. This growth is being driven by the projected increase in demand for electricity and the environmental advantages that nuclear has in regards to clean air. Nuclear technology is the only large-scale baseload electricity generation technology with a near-zero carbon footprint, apart from hydropower, the potential for which is often limited.
The present fleet of nuclear reactors in the United States has operated at high levels of safety, reliability and affordability with the average capacity factor at or above 90 percent since 2000. Nuclear plants are also among the lowest-cost electricity producers. It is expected that the new generation of nuclear power plants will feature advanced designs and refined construction techniques based on more than 50 years of operating experience.
Applications to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for combined construction/operating licenses began in 2007 — for the first time in 30 years. Construction of the next generation of nuclear plants in this country will differ markedly from the old process when companies built plants as the designs and regulations were evolving. Designs for the next generation plants will have all design-related safety issues resolved before construction begins.
Mergers and acquisitions seen throughout the utility industry have resulted in the creation of nuclear plant fleet owners who leverage their resources to increase plant production, security and safety while reducing costs. The continuing successful operation of these fleets has led to owners seeking to extend the operating licenses for their plants for another 20 years beyond the initial 40 year license.
Security, which has always been very robust at nuclear facilities, has been substantially enhanced since September 11, 2001. Today, nuclear facilities represent one of the most secure elements of the nation’s infrastructure.
Overseas, nuclear power continues to be a significant source of electricity. While we only began new nuclear power plant construction in 2010 in the United States, construction of nuclear power plants has continued internationally with 60 reactors currently under construction worldwide. The majority of this construction is planned for Asia. With fast-growing economies, rapidly-rising electricity demand and growing sensitivity to the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment, it is expected that this region will continue to see significant growth in nuclear generated electricity.
Nuclear power’s proven track record points to an important and continuing role in assuring the world’s energy future. ANI fully intends to respond to the future insurance needs of the worldwide nuclear industry. In so doing, we expect to continue to provide our member companies and reinsurers with solid financial returns.