Alexander: Next Congress Has a Prime Opportunity to Ensure Future of Nuclear Power

Posted on November 16, 2016

Says Congress should work to end nuclear waste stalemate, invest in new nuclear reactors and end wasteful subsidies that pick energy winners and losers

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 16, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the top Senate Republican on energy appropriations, today said the next Congress has a “prime opportunity to ensure nuclear power has a future in our country” and laid out steps that should be taken to spur the development of new nuclear reactors and end the nuclear waste stalemate.

“Today, nuclear produces about 60 percent of our country’s carbon-free electricity, but the U.S. could lose about half our reactors over the next two decades if existing licenses can’t be extended from 60 to 80 years. We need to take steps today to ensure nuclear power has a future in our country, including extending our reactor licenses when it is safe to do so, investing in energy research, ending policies that pick energy winners and losers and ending the nuclear waste stalemate,” Alexander said. 

He added: “Nuclear power is our nation’s best source of low-cost, reliable, safe and pollution-free electricity that can power your home or business when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun isn’t shining. And at a time when the world’s leading science academies of 20 developed countries say climate change is a threat – and that humans are a significant cause of that threat – it makes no sense whatsoever to close nuclear reactors. We need to invest today in the next generation of nuclear reactors, advanced reactors, small modular reactors and accident tolerant fuels.”

Today was the second of two oversight hearings to discuss the future of nuclear power in the United States. Alexander, who leads the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development, said this year’s Senate version of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill includes $94.5 million for advanced reactors, which is $21 million more than the president's budget request. The bill also provides $95 million for small modular reactors, which is a $32.5 million increase over last year. 

Alexander argued the United States should use its supercomputing resources to model and simulate reactor designs in new ways to make sure new reactors are safe and more cost-effective.

Today’s hearing consisted of two panels and witnesses, including Dr. John Deutch, who is chair of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board and institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Deutch is also a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, deputy secretary of defense, and director of energy research at the Dept. of Energy. The second panel included Dr. Alan Icenhour, the associate laboratory director for nuclear science and engineering at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Dr. Matthew McKinzie, the director of the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Alexander asked the witnesses about findings from the final report issued by the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on the Future of Nuclear Power – a report examining challenges that the nuclear industry is facing today, as well as the steps that are necessary to deploy new advanced nuclear technologies in the future.  

In September’s hearing, the committee discussed what actions should be taken to maintain today’s nuclear power plants and ensure our country continues to invest in nuclear power.

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