December 07, 2020

Weekly Column: Reinforcing America's Nuclear Infrastructure

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Over the last couple of years, Congress has ushered in a new chapter in U.S. nuclear energy by enacting legislation promoting nuclear innovation.  The advancement of clean, reliable nuclear energy is paramount to maintaining the United States’ eminence in nuclear power, research and innovation.  My colleagues and I recently introduced S. 4897, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA) of 2020, which would further facilitate our country’s nuclear competitiveness through enhanced collaboration with allied nations, nuclear energy workforce development and improved review processes to help deploy advanced nuclear technologies. 

Since April, I have been working with a bipartisan group of senators to develop legislation to build on the 2018 enactment of S. 97, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), and the 2019 enactment of S. 512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA).  These laws help ensure the research conducted at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) continues to contribute to and empower the long-term viability of our diverse domestic energy resources and keeps our nation at the forefront of nuclear innovation. 

This bipartisan work, led by Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and me, has progressed with the November introduction of S.4897.  The purpose of this new legislation is to advance U.S. nuclear competitiveness through greater collaboration with our allies; improve advanced nuclear deployment through more efficient and informed permitting reviews; strengthen the current aging nuclear fleet; and increase our energy security by creating a domestic uranium reserve.

The Senate EPW Committee held a hearing in August to consider an earlier discussion draft of the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act.  Since then, bipartisan work has continued to incorporate changes based on feedback from various stakeholders.  The recently introduced version of the ANIA would:

  • empower the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead in international forums to develop regulations and technical standards for nuclear reactor designs;
  • give the NRC authority to deny imports of Russian and Chinese nuclear fuel on national security grounds;
  • increase efficiency and predictability in the permitting and review processes for advanced nuclear;
  • incentivize the successful deployment of next generation nuclear reactor technologies;
  • require the assessment and update of regulatory barriers to enable advanced nuclear technologies to reduce industrial emissions;
  • modernize outdated rules that restrict nuclear energy investment;
  • further the development of advanced nuclear fuels;
  • authorize a uranium reserve;
  • authorize funding to assist in cleaning up abandoned mining sites on Tribal land; and more.

A summary and full text of S.4897 can be accessed on the EPW Committee’s website: https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/

Nuclear technology provides great opportunity for the clean, reliable and efficient generation of needed energy.   We cannot afford to let countries, such as Russia and China, surpass the U.S. in global leadership in this important field.  Securing our global leadership requires empowering the long-term development of nuclear energy by continually assessing the need for reforms that keep our country at the forefront of the development of this national asset.  Enactment of the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act will make further progress in the bipartisan effort to reinforce America’s innovation and leadership in advanced nuclear research and development. 

# # #

Word Count: 522