A bipartisan group of 20 senators sent a letter last week to Sens. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Jack Reed (D., R.I.), the committee’s ranking member, urging the inclusion of S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), in S. 4049, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The letter was spearheaded by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Cory Booker, (D., N.J.). Murkowski and Booker introduced NELA on September 6, 2018 (NN, Oct. 2018, p. 39).
The Senate voted 90–7 on June 24 to begin debate on the nation’s annual defense bill, one of the few pieces of major legislation passed by Congress every year. Inhofe said he would “make every effort” to pass the $740-billion measure before the chamber adjourns for the Fourth of July holiday, but offered no guarantee.
From the letter: "Nuclear energy provides many benefits, from zero-emission power to high reliability and energy security, but its contribution to national security is often underappreciated. The Atlantic Council recently estimated nuclear energy’s annual contribution to U.S. national security to be $42 billion. Civilian nuclear energy benefits the Department of Defense through a shared source of human capital, supply chains, and technology development with the Navy. Commercial nuclear power provides long-term, high-paying career stability for Navy veterans, while civilian nuclear energy also provides a high-quality nuclear engineering workforce for the Navy.”
The letter added, “NELA will enable a new generation of advanced nuclear energy technologies to reinvigorate U.S. nuclear leadership. It will enable a future for the U.S. nuclear energy industry by investing in advanced nuclear technology demonstrations, research and development infrastructure, fuel security, and workforce development. NELA passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee by voice vote and has broad stakeholder support.”
Senate supporters: Signatories to the letter, in addition to Murkowski and Booker, include Sens. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), Martin Heinrich (D., N.M.), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Doug Jones (D., Ala.), Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.), Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D., Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Mark Warner (D., Va.), Jim Risch (R., Idaho), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Rob Portman (R., Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), and Bill Cassidy (R., La.).