Why Nuclear is Key to Climate & Energy Security
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As energy prices remain at their highest levels in more than a decade, there’s little sign that the U.S. is on a steady course toward energy security. That’s why the NAM is urging the federal government to pursue all available options—including nuclear.
The lowdown: Nuclear energy is a safe, reliable and the largest zero-emission source of energy in the U.S.
- At a time of pronounced supply chain challenges, oil-and-gas lease cancellations and costly shortages of critical minerals, nuclear energy could go a long way toward fortifying the grid.
- In addition, the technology has advanced enormously in recent years. Microreactors, small enough to be moved by truck, are poised to help solve the challenge of powering remote areas.
- The Department of Energy also recognizes the importance of nuclear energy, recently noting its relevance to energy security in the department’s Supply Chain Assessments.
What we’re saying: “The reality is that to meet our growing electricity needs and climate goals, nuclear-generated power must be part of the solution,” said NAM Director of Energy and Resources Policy Chris Morris. Here are his key policy recommendations:
- Encourage capital formation: The NAM secured a significant $6 billion investment in the Civilian Nuclear Credit Program through the recent infrastructure bill, but more robust investments will be needed to ensure operations continue at current nuclear projects, Morris said.
- Relicensing: Licensing and permitting processes should meet the highest standards, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission often takes years to complete them. The NRC should use its position on the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council to make efficiency improvements in its licensing processes under the recently announced Permitting Action Plan.
- Fuel supply chain security: The U.S. imports uranium for civilian nuclear use from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Canada and Australia, among others. Meanwhile, new advanced reactor concepts will utilize high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) which is now solely produced by Russia and China. The NAM has been calling on policymakers to prioritize increasing domestic production.
- SMRs and microreactors: Small modular reactors use factory-built components to streamline construction, while microreactors are portable and self-sufficient. Both will be crucial for next-generation nuclear power—but the U.S. government must invest in their manufacturing and modernize regulations accordingly.
- Spent fuels: The NAM has long supported ongoing R&D into the storage and transportation of spent fuels—and progress is being made. Just yesterday, NRC staff recommended licensing a new storage project in New Mexico, “determining there would be largely minor environmental impacts from the project,” according to POLITICO (subscription).
- Public perception: Commercial nuclear power is sometimes viewed as dangerous or unstable based on historic misconceptions. In truth, the U.S. nuclear industry is leading the world in best practices, safety and accountability. Policymakers must engage with local communities to provide the facts and emphasize the importance of nuclear power for combating climate change.
The last word: “Our current fleet and the next generation of nuclear power must be a substantial part of a clear-eyed strategy to address climate and energy security,” Morris said.