Electric vehicles key to nuclear's revival, CEO says

Crane, who spoke at the nuclear energy conference in Bethesda, Md., sponsored by Platts, said the industry for example should lobby in support of electric vehicles.

The perception of the industry began to shift after it began advertising itself a partial cure to global warming. The fact that nuclear power plants don’t emit carbon dioxide when operating has muted criticism even from environmental groups, Crane said.

For broader political support, the industry needs to position itself as a potential solution to an overreliance on foreign oil as well.

Crane began his speech with a number: $388 billion. That's the amount the U.S. paid to import oil last year. Nuclear power doesn't produce transportation fuel, but it would if more electric cars were on the road.

“You can’t find a senator or a congressman who has not driven an electric car,” Crane told reporters after his speech. “But they still think of it as a niche product.”

Crane believes the technology is ready for broad use and that the nuclear power industry needs to push electric vehicles to compete with natural gas producers that say vehicles powered by domestically produced compressed natural gas is the way to reduce oil imports.

“It’s a fight for market share right now [among] different energy sources,” Crane said.

Electric vehicles are just one component of a lobbying agenda Crane believes the nuclear sector should embrace.

Nuclear lobbyists should also push for a quicker regulatory review process, federal siting authority for new nuclear plants, and a “clean portfolio standard” that includes nuclear power instead of a renewable portfolio standard that shuts the door on the industry, Crane said.