Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Elaine Luria (D., Va.), along with 29 of their colleagues, sent a letter last week to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, urging them to include the text of the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) in the final fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Murkowski joined Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and 18 other lawmakers in a similar letter to the Senate Armed Service Committee earlier this year. Murkowski and Booker introduced NELA on September 6, 2018 (NN, Oct. 2018, p. 39).
The House and Senate passed their respective versions of the NDAA in July, by votes of 295–125 and 86–14, respectively. (NELA provisions have been included in the Senate’s NDAA and in the House’s Clean Economy and Jobs Innovation Act.) Last month, speaking at the 2020 Defense News Conference, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the final House and Senate conference report on the NDAA should be coming out soon after the November election.
Quotes: “The United States can be a strategic clean energy leader through the development of innovative nuclear technologies,” Murkowski said. “The Department of Defense would be able to deploy advanced microreactors to bolster reliability, resilience, and security. Homes, schools, and businesses could switch to clean, safe, and more affordable power. This letter demonstrates that there is broad bipartisan and bicameral support for advanced nuclear energy, and all of us want to make the most of this policymaking opportunity.”
Luria said, “As a naval surface warfare officer who operated nuclear reactors on aircraft carriers, I know that the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act will safeguard national security. By building a thriving nuclear workforce with expertise in defense-critical areas, our nation can once again become a leader in nuclear energy. I strongly urge the NDAA conferees to include this bipartisan legislation in the final conference report.”
Bill basics: According to an October 15 news release from Murkowski’s committee, NELA has seven key sections designed to jump-start innovation in advanced nuclear energy:
■ Establish a nationwide strategy for nuclear science and engineering research and development.
■ Provide for at least two advanced nuclear reactor demonstration projects, to be completed by the end of 2025.
■ Revise federal energy contracting authority so that the government can enter into power purchase agreements for up to 40 years, better reflecting the length of time that nuclear power offers a return on investment.
■ Start a pilot program for a long-term nuclear power purchase agreement featuring breakthrough, first-of-its-kind nuclear technology.
■ Require the Department of Energy to provide a source for fast-neutron research, which is vital for testing advanced nuclear concepts.
■ Create a program to begin supplying reactors with high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel, which is needed for many advanced reactor designs.
■ Establish a university nuclear leadership program to provide scholarships and funding for students pursuing studies in nuclear science.