Senate bill introduced to reestablish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy

November 24, 2020, 9:29AMNuclear News



The American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA), S. 4897, released as draft legislation in July and supported by a panel of energy experts at a Senate hearing in August, has been introduced in the Senate.

The bipartisan bill—sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and cosponsored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), and Cory Booker (D., N.J.)—was introduced on November 16.

What they’re saying: Barrasso said that the ANIA would strengthen energy and national security in the United States. “In the face of Russian and Chinese aggression, it’s critical we remain the world’s leading developer of nuclear energy technology. This bipartisan legislation gets that done,” he said, adding, “Our bipartisan bill supports the continued operation of America’s existing reactors and sets the stage to deploy advanced nuclear technologies. It will also ensure that the nuclear fuel powering our nuclear plants comes from America or our trusted allies. Russia has flooded the global uranium market with cheap nuclear fuel. This costs jobs in Wyoming and undercuts our producers.”

Barrasso noted that the bill would create a national uranium reserve “so we always have access to American fuel to power American nuclear plants.”

Whitehouse added that nuclear energy is already powering the electric grid at a large scale. “Our bill would help combat climate change by providing incentives to keep safely operating plants on line,” he said. “We also need to further invest in research to develop a new generation of nuclear power technologies that overcome existing environmental challenges, including by reusing spent nuclear fuel.”

Specifics: The ANIA would do the following:

■ Reestablish U.S. international competitiveness and global leadership by empowering the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactor designs, and providing the NRC authority to deny imports of Russian and Chinese nuclear fuel on national security grounds.

■ Expand nuclear energy through advanced nuclear technologies by making the permitting process for advanced nuclear more predictable and efficient, creating a prize to incentivize the successful deployment of next-generation nuclear reactor technologies, and requiring the NRC to identify and update regulatory barriers to enable advanced nuclear technologies to reduce industrial emissions.

■ Preserve existing nuclear energy by authorizing a targeted credit program to preserve nuclear reactors that could prematurely shut down and modernizing outdated rules that restrict investment in nuclear energy.

■ Revitalize America’s nuclear supply chain infrastructure by helping develop the advanced nuclear fuels needed to power 21st century nuclear reactor designs, approving a uranium reserve to ensure that the United States does not lose the capacity to fuel its nuclear reactors with domestic fuel, and identifying modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper, and smarter.

■ Provide funds for environmental cleanup programs by authorizing funding to assist in cleaning up legacy abandoned mining sites on tribal land.

More on Barrasso: On November 18, Barrasso indicated his intention to vacate his GOP leadership role at EPW in the next Congress and replace Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) as the top Republican on the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee. Murkowski is leaving that position due to Republican conference rules that limit the number of terms a senator can serve as chairman or ranking member of a committee. Barrasso would become ENR chairman in the event that Republicans wind up maintaining control of the Senate.

Next in line for Republican EPW leadership is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.).

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