One of the biggest challenges of our time is building an energy future that is secure, reliable and increasingly clean. In recent years, we’ve seen what happens to countries that sacrifice their energy security. Even here in the United States, we face the threat of blackouts, rising energy prices, and growing dependence on adversarial countries like Russia and China.

Recent geopolitical events, from wars in the Middle East and Ukraine to China’s nefarious energy supply chain dominance, make securing our energy future all the more urgent.

Yet, there is a solution — right in front of our eyes. In fact, we’re already seeing that solution in action. Clean, reliable, abundant nuclear energy already provides about 20 percent of America’s electric power generation and could be the key to powering our world. That is, if we choose the right policies. Fortunately, there are clear steps we can take to support our current nuclear fleet and next-generation nuclear technologies.

To begin, we must establish regulatory pathways for next-generation nuclear designs to be approved quickly and without burdensome, unnecessary costs.

Currently, archaic, inflexible regulations hinder innovation by forcing next-generation technologies into last-generation requirements. In addition to modernizing our regulatory system, we must also incentivize America’s brightest minds to pursue careers in the nuclear industry.

Promoting research and development in the field and supporting STEM programs for students have never been more important.

We know 21st century problems require 21st century solutions. The Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy Act (ADVANCE Act) is that solution for the nuclear sector. This bipartisan bill and its cosponsors recognize the urgency of securing our energy future by enabling advanced nuclear technologies through predictable and efficient regulations and incentives for increased innovation.

It may seem like expanding the role of nuclear energy is a no-brainer, but the United States has fallen woefully behind. The first new traditional nuclear reactor in three decades just came online in Georgia and although advanced nuclear technologies have made promising progress, headlines have focused on setbacks.

America’s best and brightest are developing innovative first-of-a-kind nuclear reactor designs. We all know challenges are a normal part of early-stage innovation, however, they are not a reason to abandon nuclear energy. The ADVANCE Act recognizes why these setbacks happen and provides opportunities to increase certainty for innovators and employers that will help bring this exciting technology to market.

The alternative is to continue to allow China to finance nuclear energy projects, enabling them to not only dominate global energy markets, but also grow a long-term sphere of influence in developing countries.

This is a serious threat not just to our energy security, but also to the United States’ position as the undisputed global leader of nuclear technology, including associated nuclear services, supply chain, expertise and regulations. It’s a matter of national security and we cannot allow it to continue.

All over the world, countries recognize that nuclear energy is a key part of both our energy and climate policy. From Japan to South Korea to Poland to France, these countries are recommitting to nuclear power as a significant part of their energy mix.

If the United States wants to get serious about our long-term energy security and our environmental goals, nuclear energy is the clear answer. Passing the ADVANCE Act into law is the obvious next step.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito represents the state of West Virginia and is the author of the bipartisan ADVANCE Act. Grace Stanke is Miss America 2023 and a nuclear engineering student at the University of Wisconsin. Chris Barnard is the president of the American Conservation Coalition Action (ACC Action).