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Weekly Column: Nuclear Innovation Legislation Becoming Law

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Congress’s recent passage of S. 97, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA) underscores the strong bipartisan agreement in Congress that nuclear energy is a reliable, safe, clean and efficient part of our national energy portfolio and a commitment to maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear innovation. 

I have been proud to lead this legislation with fellow Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and James Risch (R-Idaho).  The bill has been the result of years of bipartisan collaboration and work to remove barriers to the development of technologies that allow for advanced and more efficient use of nuclear energy.  Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) also co-sponsored this legislation that directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize partnerships 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 the DOE to enable the construction and testing of experimental reactors.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would partner with the DOE in this effort, contributing its expertise on safety issues while also learning about the new technologies developed through the Center.  This legislation strengthens the ability of national laboratories, like Idaho National Laboratory (INL), to partner with private industry to prove the principles behind their research.  This bill provides the women and men at INL and our other national labs additional capabilities for critical testing and collaboration with the private sector to maintain U.S. eminence in the future of nuclear energy.  NEICA also sends a clear message to investors and innovators to continue to pursue and invest in advanced nuclear technology in the U.S.

Passage of this legislation compliments bipartisan work on two other pieces of legislation that will bolster nuclear innovation.  Earlier this Congress, I joined Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Senator James Risch and others on both sides of the aisle to introduce S. 512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA).  I helped write this legislation to promote innovation in the nuclear sector by modernizing the NRC so that it has the ability to license advanced reactors in a safe, timely and transparent manner. 

In September, I again joined Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Lisa Murkowski, Senator James Risch and many of the same senators in the bipartisan group I worked with to craft the other two bills in supporting S. 3422, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA).  NELA would help launch robust public-private partnerships between the federal government, research institutions and industry innovators and allow the federal government to be an early adopter of new, tested nuclear technologies.  NELA will provide a long-term vision and strategy for advanced nuclear energy research, development and deployment in the U.S., continuing U.S. leadership in cutting-edge nuclear technology and clean, reliable energy.

Reliable, efficient and emission-free—nuclear energy is and will continue to be a critical component of our nation’s baseload power needs.  The research and advances in nuclear energy being achieved by the experts, particularly at Idaho National Lab, will be supported well into the future by this comprehensive and multifaceted legislative approach.  I look forward to building upon the momentum from the enactment of NEICA to push these other bills and further reforms over the finish line.  Work continues to lift barriers to American innovation and leadership in nuclear energy. 

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