Check out this great profile of AREVA Inc.’s president. In this profile, Mr. Besnainou talks about the future of nuclear energy in the U.S. and some of AREVA’s plans for helping combat climate change.
As President of AREVA Inc., Jacques Besnainou provides oversight and vision for the North American arm of a world leader in energy. Besnainou, a French and American citizen, brought 20 years of management and systems engineering experience to his current role. He has served as senior executive vice president for the company’s Nuclear Back-End sector in France, managing recycling operations at two of AREVA’s plants and began his career as a systems design engineer. He also served as a civilian advisor for nuclear affairs at the French Ministry of Industry and spent several years in the United States directing an environmental consulting company and working at COGEMA Inc., a predecessor of AREVA.
“In the energy business we are faced with the growing challenge of providing clean energy for growing demand in a difficult market,” says Besnainou. AREVA uses multiple technologies to provide solutions for generating clean energy. The heart of the company’s clean-energy business is nuclear power, yet we are expanding our activities in renewables.
“We are very well positioned to meet the challenge. AREVA works in the business of sustainable energy solutions and in my opinion, the world needs nuclear power more than ever,” says Besnainou. “Nuclear makes up over 70 percent of emissions-free electricity generation in the United States, and AREVA has the expertise to build new plants to meet our energy needs,” he continued. “We have constructed 100 plants around the globe and our EPR™ design is the only Generation III+ reactor under construction worldwide.” Currently, four plants utilizing EPR™ design are under construction in Finland, France and China.
AREVA has the unique distinction of actively working in every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle as well as in electricity transmission and distribution, an attribute Besnainou views as a real competitive advantage. “We are a global company working in an increasingly interconnected world. We provide best practices and lessons learned from our projects and operations in 43 countries. Our business practice rests on integrating our leading edge products and services with our global vision and expertise.”
Climate Change and the Rebirth of Nuclear
The American public has accepted global climate change as a reality, but the country is still grappling with the best way to address the problem, meet growing energy needs and, in the same measure, grow the economy. Americans emit 8 metric tons of CO2 per person compared to a world average of 4.2 metric tons per person. Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions has become a priority and is fueling the revival of the U.S. nuclear program.
“Billions of dollars have been spent on climate research and the development of clean air energy sources. The trend towards renewable energy is growing stronger and that is a good thing. But it is important to remember that only nuclear energy offers the clean-air baseload generation we need,” says Besnainou. “In addition, nuclear power is a proven solution that is ready for deployment now. In the United States, we already avoid the release of 700 million metric tons of CO2 every year through the use of nuclear power, which is nearly equivalent to the emissions from more than 120 millions cars on our roads.” He is adamant that “any serious attempt to tackle the problem of global climate change must lean heavily on development of CO2-free energy generation such as renewables and nuclear power.”
Besnainou feels strongly that the time for the rebirth of nuclear power in the United States has arrived. There is strong evidence to support his assertion. Presently, there are more than 30 nuclear projects under consideration across the country. “These power plants are needed to provide the non-emitting power we must have to reduce emissions as we aim to meet electricity demand expected to increase 25 percent by 2030. It is AREVA’s goal to provide one-third of these new reactors,” says Besnainou. Several utilities have already chosen the EPR™ technology for their proposed plants and seven projects are underway. AREVA appears right on track to meet its goal.
AREVA is now working to obtain design certification for the EPR™ reactor from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “That is a task we have invested $200 million in and assigned a dedicated team of 325 engineers and 55 technicians. We are sparing no effort or expense in delivering the EPR to the grid. Our vision is to have the first EPR reactor up and running in 2015,” says Besnainou.
A Nuclear “New Deal”
AREVA is reinforcing its readiness for the new wave of plants with a series of initiatives spread throughout the fuel cycle. Besnainou calls AREVA’s efforts a “New Deal” for nuclear power. He pointed to initiatives in every segment of the fuel cycle, beginning with AREVA’s hiring policy. AREVA has hired more than 1,200 new employees in the past two years and is expecting to hire another 600 annually for the next five years. Many of these employees will be used to support the EPR™ certification process and expected combined Construction Operations and Licensing applications. New hires are coming into mechanical engineering, chemistry, welding, electronics and information technology, all fields that are crucial to supporting the construction of new plants. Specifically, AREVA has increased its staff at its engineering facilities in Lynchburg, Va., and Charlotte, N.C., and spent $160 million during the past few years modernizing equipment.
In September 2008, AREVA and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding announced the construction of a new manufacturing and engineering facility in Newport News, Va., which will supply heavy components to the growing American nuclear sector. “The $400 million, 300,000 square-foot facility is one of our flagship projects. The plant provides more than 500 skilled jobs for the Commonwealth of Virginia and reinforces our commitment to ensuring not only the rebirth of nuclear power, but its steady growth in providing clean-air energy for the country,” says Besnainou. The plant will be the first full-scale manufacturing facility dedicated to the supply of heavy components, such as reactor vessels, steam generators and pressurizers, for the U.S. nuclear energy industry.
AREVA has staked its claim as an industry leader at the front and back ends of the fuel cycle. The company recently submitted an application for its proposed Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility in Idaho. Eagle Rock is a state-of-the-art facility which will enrich uranium for nuclear power plants using a centrifuge process that has been proven safe and effective over three decades of practice. “Eagle Rock is a very exciting project for the AREVA family, the nuclear energy industry and the people of Idaho. The multi-billion dollar facility will create hundreds of jobs and provide the fuel the industry needs for its rebirth,” says Besnainou. “We hope to begin construction in 2011. It is one thing to talk about nuclear revival and it is another thing to make it happen.”
AREVA has also taken a leadership role at the back end of the fuel cycle, the management of nuclear fuel after it has been used in a reactor. AREVA is renowned for its dry storage practices in the United States and its work to convert weapons materials to fuel used for safe electricity generation. “We are leaders in used fuel management. We provide storage solutions today so that we can employ our expertise in recycling fuel in the future,” says Besnainou. “After we use fuel in the United States, 96 percent of the energy value is still left. We are already recycling fuel in Europe and Japan. We will be more than ready to employ our technology and experience here when the time is right.”
“It is an exciting time for the nuclear industry and for AREVA,” concludes Besnainou, “I feel blessed that I have been given the opportunity to help bring clean-air energy solutions to the country and contribute to U.S. energy security. It is deeply rewarding to work with a business that you feel is making contributions to an important cause.”