Op-ed: The United States can and should dominate the world’s nuclear energy resurgence

WASHINGTON—Today, The Washington Times published an op-ed co-authored by CRES President Heather Reams and Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) highlighting how the Atomic Energy Advancement Act will modernize licensing and streamline regulations around nuclear production.

Energy is a kitchen table issue for American families. We rely on the certainty that we can heat our homes in the freezing cold, turn up the A/C in the sweltering heat, plug in our laptops so we can catch up on work, or even just flip on the lights so we can see our dinner plates in the evening. Nuclear energy helps ensure this quality of life.

As the world recognizes the importance of increased nuclear power, the United States should take the lead and work to preserve our nuclear fleet and advance American nuclear production into the 21st Century.

The Atomic Energy Advancement Act is not only a practical, commonsense solution but a bipartisan one. It will modernize licensing and streamline regulations around nuclear production so that we can continue to make technological advancements that benefit us here at home and our allies abroad. The Act directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) leadership to align the expressed mission of the NRC with the foundational goals of the Atomic Energy Act and improves global nuclear cooperation through enhanced DOE and NRC technical support for U.S. allies while reducing barriers to investment in U.S. projects. Additionally, the bill requires that NRC conduct efficient, timely, and predictable licensing processes while establishing and regularly updating metrics and milestones to measure licensing performance to meet efficiency goals.

According to the Energy Information Administration, global electricity demand is projected to increase by up to 75% by 2050. In the dead heat of summer or the freezing cold of winter, nuclear energy is a safe, reliable, carbon-free, and baseload resource that can meet that demand.

America has always been at the forefront of clean energy innovation, and it is increasingly clear the U.S. can and should dominate the world’s nuclear energy resurgence, just as we did 40 years ago. More of our constituents are recognizing that nuclear power is a vital component of a clean energy future, and Congress is now in the best position in decades to enact meaningful bipartisan policies to bolster our nuclear dominance and our clean energy goals.

Last December, the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce convened a Republican-led congressional delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, UAE (COP28) to advocate for all-the-above energy solutions. Many are referring to the conference as “the nuclear COP” because, for the first time, nuclear energy took a front seat on the international stage.

As we highlighted at COP28 and as our country has proved repeatedly throughout history, American innovation is the key to a cleaner future. The same goes for nuclear technology.

Countries in Europe that have banned or decommissioned nuclear facilities are feeling the effects and have become increasingly reliant on dirtier sources of energy from other countries to keep the lights on and keep houses warm. In Germany, for example, the government decided to shut down its nuclear power plants – now, more than 30% of the country’s energy comes from coal. Here at home, Georgia’s Vogtle Plant 3 was the first nuclear reactor to open in the U.S. in three decades – far too long to go without new development.

With continued American development of nuclear technologies and reactors comes increased global influence over the clean energy future. Advanced nuclear technology – including small modular reactors and microreactors – has the potential to revolutionize clean energy supply to communities throughout the United States and the world, including rural America.

While the Atomic Energy Advancement Act would be an enormous leap forward, there is still work to do to increase the acceptance of nuclear power, as well as the advantages it provides for energy security and reliability.

CRES Forum polling found that support for nuclear energy increased by 25 percent among those who live near nuclear power plants. These communities experience firsthand how nuclear energy can lower costs, strengthen grid reliability, and create jobs.

The United States currently sources much of our uranium – the most critical element of nuclear fuel production – from other countries. We need to onshore our production and completely cut out Russian uranium to signal to the nuclear industry that the United States can maintain a stable domestic supply chain. Congress can fix the broken permitting system through the Atomic Energy Advancement Act to provide certainty to nuclear energy development and reduce our reliance on foreign countries for our baseload generation.

It is increasingly clear the world is hungry for clean and reliable energy. Why wouldn’t we want to develop those technologies right here in the United States?

The U.S. has harnessed the power of nuclear energy in the past and will continue to do so into the future. We need the bipartisan Atomic Energy Advancement Act to ensure America is leading the world for the coming nuclear resurgence.

The House just passed this pivotal legislation, and it’s time for the Senate to do likewise. With bipartisan support, we can bring about the most significant update to nuclear energy policy in the United States in over a generation and send this bill to the President’s desk.

Heather Reams is President of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES).
Rep. Jeff Duncan represents South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.

Read the full op-ed here.

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