Alexander: Future of Nuclear Power Depends on a Ready Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Posted on April 25, 2018

“The applications to build and demonstrate small modular reactors represent the future of nuclear power... I also want to make sure the Commission is ready to review applications for advanced reactors.”

WASHINGTON, April 25 — The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development today said he is “committed to making sure the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is ready to review applications for new reactors—particularly small modular reactors and advanced reactors, which represent the future of nuclear power.”

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s job is very important—it oversees our 99 nuclear power reactors, which provide 20 percent of our nation’s electricity and more than half of our carbon-free electricity. Nuclear power is our best source of inexpensive, carbon-free, baseload power, and is important for our national security and competitiveness,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), speaking at the third budget hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development for fiscal year 2019—today on the president’s proposed budget for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Instead of building more windmills, which only produce 17% of our carbon-free electricity, or solar farms, which only produce 4% of our carbon-free electricity, the best way to make sure the United States has a reliable source of inexpensive, efficient, carbon-free electricity is to extend the licenses of our existing nuclear reactors—which produce 60% of our carbon-free electricity—if it is safe to do so.  I want to make sure the Commission has the resources it needs to review any applications it expects to receive in fiscal year 2019—and in addition to our existing reactors, the Commission also needs to be ready to review applications for new reactors, particularly small modular reactors and advanced reactors. These new technologies represent the future of nuclear power.”

Alexander continued: “In fiscal year 2017, we provided enough funding to complete the Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program at the Department of Energy. NuScale, which was one of the technologies selected in that program, filed an application for design certification of a small modular reactor with the Commission in December of 2016. A utility group has been working with NuScale and Idaho National Laboratory to build and demonstrate a small modular reactor in Idaho. TVA has also submitted an application to the Commission for a permit to build and demonstrate a small modular reactor at the Clinch River site in Tennessee. The applications to build and demonstrate small modular reactors is an important step, and we need to make sure the Commission has the resources it needs to review the applications.”

Alexander concluded: “I also want to make sure the Commission is ready to review applications for advanced reactors. The fiscal year 2018 Omnibus included $10 million for the Commission to prepare to review advanced reactor designs, and I understand the current budget request includes $10.3 million for fiscal year 2019. I’d like to know what the Commission plans to do with the funding Congress provided for advanced reactors so that we can make sure the development of advanced reactors stays on track.”

In discussing how nuclear power can continue to play a significant role in our nation’s electricity generation, Alexander focused his questions on four main areas: licensing small modular and advanced reactors; safely extending licenses for existing reactors; licensing facilities for used nuclear fuel and solving the nuclear waste stalemate; and accident tolerant fuel.

Read Chairman Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.

 

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