By Craig Piercy
There’s no denying that nuclear energy in the United States has traveled a rough road over the past several years. Plants have closed, legislation to deal with nuclear waste has stalled, and at times it seems that nuclear energy has been written off by policymakers and the public alike.
However, the future of nuclear is looking a bit brighter every day. Over the past five years, the Office of Nuclear Energy budget has grown almost 50%. States like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York are implementing Zero-Emissions Credits that include nuclear energy. Congress is passing advanced reactor legislation with unprecedented bipartisan support.
Little by little, these successes are adding up, and the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee is hoping to chalk up another win on the board: passage of S.3422, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). Introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), the bill is a package of measures designed to boost U.S. global leadership in nuclear energy and technology. Murkowski and Booker hope to promote a healthy nuclear industry that is capable of building and deploying the most advanced reactor designs at a competitive price around the world.
In brief, the bill:
Directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish long-term advanced reactor R&D goals
Directs DOE to develop a 10-year strategic plan to foster reactor innovation, development, and deployment
Mandates development of a versatile fast test reactor
Ensures high-assay, low-enriched uranium availability
Creates a pilot program for a long-term federal power purchase agreement for nuclear energy
Re-authorizes the Integrated University Program in DOE, NRC, and NNSA
This is an important bill. As ANS President John Kelly wrote in his letter of support to the two sponsor Senators, “NELA is an important step forward in supporting development of the U.S. advanced reactor technology portfolio and the nuclear engineering workforce…[ANS is] pleased to