New bill aims to bring advanced reactors to economically depressed communities

December 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Bipartisan support for nuclear energy continued on Capitol Hill last week as Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the committee’s ranking member, introduced the Fission for the Future Act of 2021, a measure backing the commercial deployment of advanced nuclear reactors.

Introduced on December 16, the legislation would prioritize communities affected by the closure of coal and other fossil-fueled generating facilities and assist in the reutilization of those sites to deploy advanced nuclear power plants, promoting job growth in economically depressed regions.

According to a news release from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the median annual salary for a nuclear power reactor operator is $104,470, making it one of the highest paid positions in the electricity generation field. “Nuclear power plants also foster a strong state and local tax base, further strengthening communities,” the news release added.

A word from the sponsors: “Nuclear energy is an important source of zero-emission, baseload power that is critical to providing reliable, affordable, and dependable power as we chart the path to a cleaner energy future,” Manchin said. “Advanced nuclear technologies also provide an opportunity to repurpose shuttered coal and fossil generating plants, which could bring new high-paying jobs and economic opportunities to communities throughout West Virginia and the nation while expanding our domestic nuclear supply chain.”

Not surprisingly, Barrasso highlighted the potential of advanced nuclear for his state. “Wyoming will host TerraPower’s Natrium reactor, which will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world,” he said. “It is designed to generate and store electricity. Our legislation will help train and prepare local workers as we look ahead to the development of more of these groundbreaking reactors.”

Specifics: The Fission for the Future Act would:

  • Require the secretary of energy to establish a program to provide assistance to support the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors and associated infrastructure.
  • Enable the Department of Energy to provide assistance to states, Indian tribes, local governments, utilities, and private entities to support commercial planning, licensing, and development of advanced nuclear reactors.
  • Prioritize communities that have retiring or retired fossil fuel generation facilities to help replace lost electricity generation with advanced nuclear reactors and support nonelectric applications, such as heating, hydrogen production, or industrial processes.

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