(Bloomberg) -- Nuclear power providers, battered by low prices and competition from cheap natural gas, say they can help President Donald Trump fulfill a campaign promise to put more people to work.
Trump will throw more support behind nuclear power than the Obama administration, which gave a higher priority to wind and solar power, Maria Korsnick, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said in an interview Tuesday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. The industry’s goal of expanding the number of U.S. nuclear reactors dovetails into Trump’s campaign promise to add jobs and boost investment in infrastructure.
Profits for U.S. nuclear operators are falling with the collapse of wholesale power prices amid a boom in gas production and rising supplies of renewables. Five nuclear plants will close by 2025, bringing the total number of retirements to 10 since 2009 when the shale boom was just getting underway. A typical nuclear generating station employs 400 to 700 people.
“I have high expectations, to be acknowledged for the jobs that we bring, to be acknowledged for the infrastructure support that we bring,” Korsnick said. “The previous administration was a bit more in love with renewables."
Early indications suggest that Trump may be supportive of nuclear power and receptive to the concerns of the industry. In a document obtained by Bloomberg, Trump’s transition team asked the Energy Department how it can help keep nuclear reactors “operating as part of the nation’s infrastructure” and what it could do to prevent the shutdown of plants.
The administration can help at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees wholesale U.S. power markets. The commission should take steps to ensure that emission-free electricity from reactors can compete with cheap gas and coal generation, and renewables, Korsnick said.
Separately, Korsnick is pushing for more states to follow New York and Illinois, which approved measures to prevent the premature closing of money-losing nuclear plants.
In December, Illinois approved annual payouts of about $235 million for 10 years to keep Exelon Corp.’s Quad Cities and Clinton reactors open. In August, New York regulators approved subsidies totaling about $500 million a year for the R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants owned by Exelon, and the James A. FitzPatrick plant it is purchasing from Entergy Corp.
“FERC can value what nuclear brings,” Korsnick said. “They can value it in the same way that some of the states have valued it.”
The U.S. nuclear industry contributes $60 billion to the economy and employs more than 100,000 people, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. That was a key message the Washington-based group delivered to the White House after Trump campaigned on a promise to boost employment, Korsnick said.
"If you look at what we’re passionate about, I would say jobs, jobs, jobs," Korsnick said. "It’s going to resonate very well with the current administration."