ANS leader says entrepreneurial spirit will create companies to build the parts
The first eight new nuclear power plants built in the U.S. will require a staggering number of components. According to William Burchill, the Vice President of the American Nuclear Society, these plants will need a master equipment list composed of 700,000 electrical connections, 200,000 feet of pipe,and 20,000 valves. Plus the plants will need large forgings that are currently only built in Japan, but that will change, Burchill says, because of the American entrepreneurial spirit that responds to new industry needs.
Burchill (right) made his remarks in a recent speech given in Lynchburg, VA, to the local ANS chapter there. Lynchburg is home to B&W and Areva both of which are about as deep into the new nuclear renaissance as you can get. These firms are likely over the next few years to ramp up their own capabilities, on a global scale, to provide large forgings for new nuclear plants.
The bottleneck at Japan Steel Works is an opening for American heavy industry Burchill says.
"This is an opportunity for an entrepreneur to get into this business and open up some shops."
His judgement call here is informed by his past experience as the head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University. Nuclear energy is coming back Burchill said because the world needs more power.
"It is not unusual to find estimates that say by mid-century world demand for electricity will grow by a factor of two."
One of his priorities as an industry leader, and former educator, is to help meet the soaring demand for nuclear engineers. He called for more funding by the federal government for scholarships and financial support to educate the next generation of nuclear engineers. However, he said these engineers will be different than previous generations.
“These students who come out of high school with an interest in science and mathematics don’t just come with a slide rule,” he said. “They have inquiring questions to ask about environmental impact and ethical impact."
Well, maybe in Burchill's day they might have come with a slide rule, but it is doubtful that anyone enrolling in college in 2008 has ever held one in their hands much less used it.
More likely, this generation of nuclear engineers will come with powerful laptop computers, cell phones, and an "always on" attitude about connecting to friends.
They may blur the distinction between work and play, and have remarkably different ideas about how large organizations ought to treat the people who work for it compared to their parents' generation. Burchill is right. Their impact on the industry will likely be as profound as the nuclear renaissance itself.