The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday approved a bill on energy infrastructure, including initiatives that would provide a boost to the U.S. nuclear industry.
The Energy Infrastructure Act, which is expected to serve as the legislative text for key portions of a more comprehensive $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, was approved 13–7, following the adoption of 48 amendments. All committee Democrats voted in favor of the bill, as well as three of the panel’s 10 GOP members, Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Steve Daines of Montana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Two well-known Republican proponents of nuclear, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Jim Risch of Idaho, voted no. (Barrasso expressed a number of concerns with the bill, including its price tag.)
Bill basics: According to an ENR news release, the amended measure authorizes over $100 billion to:
- Invest in the reliability and resilience of the U.S. electric grid and expand transmission capabilities.
- Demonstrate critical energy technologies.
- Build out the nation’s domestic supply chains for clean energy technologies.
- Invest in water infrastructure needed by Western states, restore ecosystems, and mitigate wildfire risk.
- Clean up abandoned energy infrastructure and mine lands while also reducing methane emissions.
- Fund the Energy Act of 2020.
The nuclear component: The measure includes language to advance research and development toward demonstrating and commercializing the use of clean hydrogen produced by nuclear energy, provide financial and technical assistance for the siting of microreactors and small modular reactors, and establish a civil nuclear credit program for the evaluation of existing reactors “projected to cease operation due to economic factors.”
Although not part of the approved legislation, two nuclear-relevant amendments were offered by Barrasso—one to establish a U.S. uranium reserve and one to require the secretary of energy to make high-assay low-enriched uranium available for advanced nuclear reactor demonstration projects and to accelerate the availability of commercially enriched, deconverted, and fabricated HALEU in the United States.
While not asking for a vote on these amendments, Barrasso requested that the committee work together to address the issues in a timely manner.