Top nuke lobbyist calls new US plant forecast unchanged

His optimism comes as the industry is waging a vigorous campaign to keep lawmakers abreast of the earthquake- and tsunami-driven crisis in Japan — and seeks to ensure it does not erode Capitol Hill support for nuclear power.

The group has held scores of briefings with Congressional staff and lawmakers in recent days.

And NEI announced Thursday that chief nuclear officers from the nation’s power plants conferred this week and agreed to take a number of steps to ensure plants can withstand catastrophic events.

According to NEI, power plant executives are taking actions to verify their companies' ability to “mitigate conditions that result from severe adverse events, including the loss of significant operational and safety systems due to natural events, fires, aircraft impact and explosions.”

Other steps include verifying the “capability to mitigate a total loss of electric power to a nuclear power plant is proper and functional,” and “verify the capability to mitigate flooding and the impact of floods on systems inside and outside the plant.”

The industry is seeking to show U.S. plants are not vulnerable to the type of catastrophic losses of cooling that are unfolding in Japan. For instance, Tony Pietrangelo, who is NEI’s chief nuclear officer, said portable diesel-driven water pumps are available at each site in the U.S.

The U.S. currently has 104 power reactors operating at 65 nuclear plants.

A number of power companies have license applications before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for building and operating new plants, although even before the Japanese woes, the industry faced major financing challenges and competition from natural gas.

Last year the Energy Department pledged to provide utility giant Southern Company $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for its plan to build two new reactors at its Plant Vogtle.