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Implementing Advanced Nuclear Technology Panel Discussion

Understanding Tomorrow's Nuclear Energy lecture series

Feb. 22, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Stewart Center Fowler Hall
Moderated by Chris Nolan, vice president, new nuclear generation strategy and regulatory engagement for Duke Energy

Recorded Presentation

Purdue University and Duke Energy will close the “Understanding Tomorrow’s Nuclear Energy” lecture series with a panel discussion on “Implementing Advanced Nuclear Technology” featuring industry experts. The discussion will focus on policy, technical, commercial and other requirements to make the use of small modular reactors a reality.  

The panel will include Tim Hanley, senior vice president and chief operating officer, Constellation Nuclear; Luis Reyes, former executive, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and Ahmet Tokpinar, principal vice president and general manager, nuclear power, Bechtel.

Post-lecture summary

Even though there are many challenges involved with using nuclear power to bring about a carbon-free future, these challenges don’t stand in the way, the panelists agreed.

From a policy standpoint, Reyes said that the USNRC has already recognized the need for regulations to accommodate advanced nuclear reactor technology. These regulations were originally designed for the current nuclear fleet of commercial plants, known as light-water reactors.

“The NRC has identified over a hundred changes that need to be incorporated through these regulations in order to make them suitable to expedite the processing of these applications for advanced nuclear technology,” Reyes said. “This is a large effort, and like other industries, it requires a lot of resources, specifically nuclear engineers.”

Small modular reactors (SMRs), a type of advanced nuclear reactor technology, could address some of the challenges that have been posed with light-water reactors.

One of those problems is a lengthy construction process. In his role at Bechtel, Tokpinar has seen nuclear plant projects get canceled before they are fully built due to running out of funding. The modular nature of SMRs, meaning that they would be factory-assembled prior to installation as a single unit onsite, could prevent construction delays.

Since SMRs are significantly smaller than light-water reactors, they also would have the advantage of requiring less labor. Tokpinar pointed out an ongoing skilled labor shortage in the construction industry that is expected to worsen.

“In the next four years, there will be 3.5 million construction workers short,” he said. “Another projection is that by 2025, 25% of the existing construction workforce will retire. So something has to change.”

The construction cost savings of SMRs would also make nuclear power more affordable. From his perspective at Constellation Nuclear, Hanley believes that affordability is essential for utilities to deploy new nuclear technologies. But these utilities would also need the first SMR demonstrations to be successful to consider investing in them.

“We do need to look at this as a long-term investment. The nuclear plants that we have now have operated, almost all of them, 40 years, and most of them have been relicensed to 60 years,” Hanley said. “The SMRS are going to be very capital intensive at the beginning to build them and you’ve got to look at that investment over time.”

But if the industrial sector can consider using SMRs to reach its carbon neutral goals, then universities can, too. Purdue University and Duke Energy are currently investigating whether advanced nuclear reactor technology could be a potential fit for the Purdue campus community’s long term energy needs.

“There’s no reason why it couldn’t be done. I think you’re going to start seeing announcements of SMRs being paired with a lot of industrial facilities,” Reyes said. “A facility like a large university could definitely use the same concept.”

More about Tim Hanley

Prior to his current role, Hanley served in multiple roles at Exelon. As senior vice president, operation support, he was responsible for corporate functional areas and providing governance for the Exelon nuclear fleet. As senior vice president, special nuclear projects, he led matters related to public policy issues associated with Exelon’s nuclear plant operations. As senior vice president, west operations, he was responsible for Exelon’s Dresden and Quad Cities stations and had executive oversight for the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, which Exelon operated.

Hanley holds a Master of Business Administration from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from Purdue University.

More about Luis Reyes

Reyes has over 40 years of experience in the nuclear power industry, 33 of which were with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC), where he held numerous positions including that of the executive director for operations. In his time at the USNRC, he oversaw the construction and operation of all commercial nuclear facilities in the U.S., including 30 operating research reactors. He also served as an expert consultant to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the areas of reactor construction and operations and led a regulatory review service team (RRST) on behalf of the IAEA to review the regulatory organization in Spain. Reyes also established the USNRC new reactor construction center to oversee all new fuel facilities, commercial reactors and research reactors.

Reyes holds a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Puerto Rico.

More about Ahmet Tokpinar

In his current role at Bechtel, Tokpinar’s portfolio includes oversight of new nuclear generation, advanced reactor development and major modifications services in the U.S. and worldwide. Tokpinar is an accomplished nuclear power professional with 30 years of power expertise. He has extensive knowledge of the nuclear power market sector and project execution gained from leading business development and commercial activities for Bechtel’s nuclear business line throughout the last decade.

Tokpinar holds a Master of Business Administration from John Hopkins University, a master’s degree in construction engineering and management from Rutgers University and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Bosphoros University.


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