WASHINGTON — Private-sector innovators in nuclear energy and government researchers will work hand in hand to create the next generation of clean, advanced nuclear power under bipartisan legislation introduced today in the U.S. Senate.
Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on Jan. 11 re-introduced the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA). The legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize partnering with private innovators to test and demonstrate advanced reactor concepts. The measure authorizes the creation of a National Reactor Innovation Center that brings together the technical expertise of the National Labs and DOE to enable the construction of experimental reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would partner with the DOE in this effort, which would enable the NRC to contribute its expertise on safety issues while also learning about the new technologies developed through the Center. This measure strengthens the abilities of national laboratories to partner with private industry to prove the principles behind their ideas. Today’s introduction is an improved version of similar legislation sponsored in 2016 by Crapo, Whitehouse, Risch, Booker and Hatch.
“There is bipartisan agreement in Congress that nuclear energy and nuclear research have been underutilized as a reliable, safe, clean and efficient part of our national energy portfolio,” said Crapo. “We are working to eliminate barriers to innovation within the private sector and strengthening collaboration with our national labs to maintain American preeminence in nuclear energy.”
“As Congress works to craft a new national energy policy, this bipartisan legislation will help spark the development of America’s next generation of nuclear power,” said Whitehouse. “My thanks to Senator Crapo and our Republican and Democratic colleagues for committing to advancing nuclear technologies that can help move us away from the carbon-intensive energy driving global climate change, and potentially also aid in the management of hazardous nuclear waste.”
“Including clean nuclear energy as part of our nation’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy is common sense,” said Risch. “Idaho’s history in advanced nuclear technology and the INL’s position as our nation’s nuclear energy lab makes us a natural leader in this public-private endeavor.”
“American leadership on safe and efficient nuclear energy is critical, and in order to reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible the development and commercialization of next-generation advanced nuclear reactors must be a priority,” said Booker. “This legislation will provide support to the dozens of private sector companies moving forward and investing billions of dollars in advanced reactor designs that will be even safer and more efficient than current reactors.”
“I am pleased to join this bipartisan group in supporting nuclear energy development, which is crucial to our economy,” said Hatch. “This amendment will help keep the United States at the forefront of advanced nuclear technology and will signal to the private sector that the U.S. government is committed to a future of enduring nuclear energy development.”
“The U.S. must reestablish itself as the world leader in nuclear energy innovation, and that begins with deploying advanced reactors here at home,” said Murkowski. “We can drive groundbreaking technologies by removing bureaucratic barriers to public-private partnerships and continuing responsible funding for research, development and demonstration of civilian nuclear power. The policy changes made by this bill will help to revolutionize the industry and provide robust economic growth. Advanced reactors, including small modular reactors and micro-reactors, could be used to address the unique challenges faced by many Alaskans by providing clean, affordable, and reliable power to our remote villages, cities, and military bases.”
The NEICA legislation is the companion to a bill in the U.S. House, introduced by Representative Randy Weber (R-Texas) with original cosponsors Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Lamar Smith (R-TX).