facebook linkedin twitter

Bills Planned for Vote in Congress to Expand Use of Nuclear Energy

March 4, 2020 by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House and Senate considered proposals Tuesday that would expand production of nuclear energy at a time global warming is leaving few alternatives.

Lawmakers, scheduled to vote as soon as this week on one of the bills, made clear they don’t want to deal with the health and safety risks of nuclear energy.

However, as the world emerges from one of the warmest winters on record and more expected in coming years, they say they can no longer delay weaning the U.S. off fossil fuels.

New technologies have made nuclear energy safer and more efficient, according to congressmen and witnesses at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Global energy demand is predicted to grow by at least 30 percent by 2035,” U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., the committee chairman, wrote in a memo accompanying the hearing. “Currently, 81 percent of the world’s energy and two-thirds of the world’s electricity comes from fossil fuels.”

Nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases, which creates “the potential to decarbonize the power sector more affordably,” wrote Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat.

Expert witnesses at the hearing said the latest technology for nuclear reactors has significantly reduced hazards that created disastrous meltdowns at Chernobyl in Russia in 1986 and Fukushima in Japan in 2011.

“The question of nuclear safety and the risk of potential radiation releases will likely remain highly controversial,” Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, said in his testimony.

Renewable energies like solar, wind and geothermal are making steady progress to replace polluting fossil fuels, he said. 

“And finally, we have America’s largest zero carbon source of electricity, nuclear energy, providing 20 percent of total power consumption,” he said. “The question for this hearing is whether nuclear energy can play a significant role in a future zero carbon economy. The evidence suggests it can, but there are many challenges to address, just as there are with all other zero carbon energy sources.” 

Existing U.S. nuclear power plants use reactors cooled by ordinary water, similar to the kind linked to previous disasters, according to background information from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Nuclear power reactor designers are developing reactors cooled by other chemicals, such as liquid metal and molten salt, that reduce meltdown risks and leave less radioactive waste.

They also are developing small modular reactors cooled by water that present a minimal risk of meltdown. They could be built quickly at relatively low cost in factories, then moved underground or to sites that now lack access to nuclear energy.

Proposals to expand development of the latest nuclear energy reactors are contained in pending House and Senate bills.

A leading bill is the American Energy Innovation Act, S. 2657, which is being debated in the Senate this week. Proposals in the House are similar.

Both the House and Senate bills seek to boost energy efficiency through energy storage, advanced nuclear systems and carbon capture. They also promote emission reductions for transportation vehicles and industrial sites.

The Trump administration has indicated the president would sign the legislation if it passes while still embodying his goals of using more nuclear energy for the nation’s electrical grid.

The move this week in Congress to expand nuclear energy production follows a new scientific study published in the journal Nature that shows oil and gas production is contributing more to global warming than previously believed.

The study showed that methane is produced at a rate 25 percent to 40 percent higher during oil and gas production than demonstrated by previous research. Methane is the second in amount to carbon dioxide emissions as a greenhouse gas but retains more heat from the sun.

In The News

Health

Voting

Energy

July 23, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Ohio Utility Settles for $230 Million After Bribing State Officials

Electric utility company FirstEnergy Corp. agreed to settle a Justice Department complaint Thursday by paying $230 million to avoid a... Read More

Electric utility company FirstEnergy Corp. agreed to settle a Justice Department complaint Thursday by paying $230 million to avoid a federal wire fraud conspiracy charge. Company officials admitted they conspired with former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to pay millions of dollars to his political nonprofit... Read More

Electrify America to Double EV Charging Stations by 2025

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Electrify America, an electric vehicle charging network funded with money paid by Volkswagen as punishment... Read More

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — Electrify America, an electric vehicle charging network funded with money paid by Volkswagen as punishment for its emissions cheating scandal, says it plans to more than double its number of charging stations throughout the United States and Canada. The expansion will... Read More

July 19, 2021
by TWN Staff
Poll Shows Two-Thirds of Voters Support Investments in Zero-Emission School Buses

The American Lung Association has released new poll results showing that a majority (68%) of American voters – across all... Read More

The American Lung Association has released new poll results showing that a majority (68%) of American voters – across all major demographic groups – support Congress investing in zero-emission school buses for children nationwide. The poll findings are released as Congress considers a major infrastructure package,... Read More

July 15, 2021
by Dan McCue
Senators Push Bipartisan Bill to Make Ethanol Blends Available Year-Round

WASHINGTON - In the wake of a federal appeals court ruling striking restrictions on the summertime sale of ethanol blended... Read More

WASHINGTON - In the wake of a federal appeals court ruling striking restrictions on the summertime sale of ethanol blended fuel, a bipartisan trio of senators is seeking to ensure that low-carbon, 15% ethanol fuel blends are available for purchase in all U.S. markets, year-round. The... Read More

July 13, 2021
by TWN Staff
New Report Shows Biden’s Energy Policies Could Save Lives and Money

A new report from Harvard University, Syracuse University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Resources for the Future looks at the... Read More

A new report from Harvard University, Syracuse University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Resources for the Future looks at the energy, economic, environmental, and health outcomes of an illustrative Clean Energy Standard design that reaches 80% clean electricity by 2030 (80x30). The analysis shows that achieving... Read More

July 8, 2021
by TWN Staff
DOE Announces $52.5M to Accelerate Clean Hydrogen Projects

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy is spending $52.5 million on 31 projects to advance next-generation clean hydrogen technologies... Read More

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy is spending $52.5 million on 31 projects to advance next-generation clean hydrogen technologies and support DOE’s recently announced Hydrogen Energy Earthshot initiative to reduce the cost and accelerate breakthroughs in the clean hydrogen sector. Clean hydrogen is a form... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top