For good reason, we often hear of the need to “unleash American energy” and “return to energy independence.”
To accomplish this, we should be enacting policies that actually make it easier to produce and export energy of all kinds here in the United States. That means sources that continue to provide baseload power generation like coal, oil, and natural gas, and also renewables like wind and solar.
That must also include the need to strengthen and advance nuclear energy, and take full advantage of its potential in a clean, reliable energy future.
Here in America, that potential is realized every day when we turn the lights on or charge our phones. Our 93 nuclear reactors in operation provide roughly 20% of our nation’s electricity, and nuclear power currently generates more than half of our carbon-free energy. The Plant Vogtle site in Georgia, America’s first new nuclear power plant in a generation, recently began generating electricity, which marked a historic step as we begin to build new reactors again.
Not only is it in our best interest to continue developing and deploying more nuclear energy reactors from an energy and environmental standpoint, it’s also vital to our national security and good for our economy.
So, how can we encourage more innovation, development, and investment to ensure America will meet the moment and be prepared to lead the world in nuclear energy?
That was the mission I recently undertook with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues when we introduced the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy, or the ADVANCE Act.
It is ambitious legislation that puts us on a path to reestablish America as the undisputed international leader for nuclear energy technologies.
Too often, employers looking to build nuclear reactors are hampered with unnecessary red tape and costs when navigating the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) licensing process. The ADVANCE Act encourages investment by facilitating more predictable licensing reviews and reducing regulatory costs, while ensuring the NRC continues to meet its core mission to enable the safe use of nuclear technologies.
More timely and efficient licensing and incentives like the bill’s prize programs for next-generation nuclear reactors, would invite more companies to jump in and build their ideas and workforce here in the United States.
While we make America a destination for new technologies, our legislation also directs the appropriate federal agencies to increase leadership abroad by collaborating with allies and developing nations that are looking to get into the nuclear energy game.
This partnership is especially important as Russia and China aggressively build out their nuclear export sectors. Reducing the world’s energy reliance on these two nations is critical. Russia is using its state-backed nuclear company, Rosatom, to fund its war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, China is building out its nuclear energy sector at a rapid pace and is on track to become the world’s second largest nuclear energy generator. Previous American partners are now looking to China to deploy new nuclear reactors.
Another key provision is promising to communities like those in my home state of West Virginia and others that have a history of energy production. The bill would create a pathway for retired sites that once housed conventional energy source facilities, like coal plants, to host new nuclear facilities. Many of these sites have undergone previous environmental analyses and have existing supporting infrastructure available, making them suitable to redevelop for future use.
The ADVANCE Act also recognizes the NRC’s vital role in enabling our nuclear energy sector to create jobs, reduce emissions, and boost domestic supply chains. That’s why the bill gives the Commission more tools to hire, train, and retain highly specialized staff, with an emphasis on efficiency. We aim to put the right rules and resources in place so the NRC has the right expertise to meet its core nuclear safety mission.
This legislation can make a difference as we look to the next few decades, and even next century, of American energy production.
With an issue as critical as energy production, which impacts both the pocketbooks of every American and the political landscape of a world at war, we should be looking at every solution possible. Nuclear energy is good for our energy and national security, good for America’s economic competitiveness, and good for the environment.
Let’s take advantage of this momentum now with good, bipartisan policy so we can look back and say today’s efforts positioned America as the undisputed global nuclear energy leader for the 21st century.