Supporters of nuclear infrastructure bill testify at Senate hearing

August 12, 2020, 10:49AMNuclear News

The draft American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020 (ANIA) received support from three energy experts at a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on August 5. The legislation had been introduced the previous week by Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the committee’s chairman.

Testifying before the committee were Amy Roma, a founding member of the Nuclear Energy and National Security Coalition at the Atlantic Council and an attorney at Hogan Lovells; W. Paul Goranson, chief operating officer of Energy Fuels Inc. and president of the Uranium Producers of America (UPA); and Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). (For more on the CATF, remember to check out next month’s Nuclear News.)

Roma: ANIA would do much to ensure that U.S. nuclear capabilities are preserved and expanded, providing the nation with reliable, clean energy, tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars in foreign trade opportunities for American companies, according to Roma. “But a strong civilian nuclear power industry also brings with it significant national security benefits ANIA would support,” Roma added, “which include promoting U.S. leadership in foreign nuclear trade—and ensuring the highest levels of safety and nonproliferation standards—supporting the infrastructure needed for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, and positioning the U.S. to stay at the forefront of next-generation nuclear technologies, like advanced reactors and fusion.”

Goranson: Declaring that immediate and bold action must be taken to preserve a domestic supply chain for nuclear fuel in the United States, Goranson said that “the UPA strongly supports the draft American Nuclear Infrastructure Act. Section 402 would codify the Nuclear Fuel Working Group’s proposal to establish a strategic uranium reserve. This reserve would ensure domestic uranium supply in the event of a market disruption and reduce our reliance on [foreign] state-owned enterprises.” Goranson also noted that the UPA is a strong supporter of the U.S. nuclear fleet and that Section 301 of the draft bill provides financial incentives to prevent the premature shutdown of nuclear power facilities. In addition, “Codifying the recent [memorandum of understanding] signed by the EPA and NRC would further strengthen this legislation by providing certainty and robust, effective regulation of in situ uranium recovery,” he said.

Cohen: “There’s a lot to like in this draft bill,” Cohen said, including incentives for the continued operation of the existing nuclear fleet, as well as “getting the NRC to think ahead on permitting for nonelectric applications in places like the industrial sector and other novel applications,” allowing for “more international cooperation with trusted allies in the areas of harmonized licensing and joint investment in domestic plants,” and “front-running the regulatory issues related to the use of advanced manufacturing.”

Cohen also offered some caveats, however, including concerns with section 201 of the bill—Advanced nuclear reactor project environmental reviews—and section 203—New nuclear energy project application reviews. “[The CATF’s] view is that the NRC currently has a very strong mandate from the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act as well as the environmental review provisions of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which streamlined environmental review,” Cohen said. “We think those provisions should be given a chance to work before we contemplate other major efforts in this area. Nothing could be more damaging to a relaunch of this industry than a perception that environmental safeguards have been specially trimmed. Nuclear energy can be safe, but it also has to be perceived to be safe, and maintaining strong environmental permitting review will be important to public confidence."

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