Nuclear Energy Becomes a Priority for Congress to Ease Climate Change

June 14, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
Nuclear Energy Becomes a Priority for Congress to Ease Climate Change
Small nuclear power plant (Westinghouse Electric photo)

WASHINGTON— The Nuclear Regulatory Commission made a pitch to Congress Wednesday for a $1 billion annual budget at a time when climate change makes it likely the agency is going to get what it wants.

Only days after smoke from Canadian wildfires clouded American cities with some of the world’s worst pollution, lawmakers cautiously advocated for more nuclear plants to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.

“We have a window of opportunity to advance nuclear energy in this country,” said Rep. Jeffrey Duncan, R-S.C., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate & Grid Security.

While other government agencies try to withstand federal budget-cutting, lawmakers spoke encouragingly about the 6.7% funding increase the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requests.

“The future is now,” Duncan said as he and nuclear energy industry officials discussed a “nuclear renaissance.”

Two decades ago, discussion in Congress about more nuclear energy stood minimal chance of winning support.

In 2005, Congress approved the Energy Policy Act, which provided the nuclear power industry with financial incentives and economic subsidies.

The act offers loan guarantees and cost-overrun support of as much as $2 billion for new nuclear power plants. It also extended government indemnity to nuclear reactors for legal liabilities they might incur for accidents.

Soon afterward, dozens of public utilities applied to the NRC for licenses to build and operate nuclear power plants, helping to coin the phrase a “nuclear renaissance.”

Georgia Power Co. opened one of the new plants last month near Waynesboro, Georgia. NuScale Power Corp. is scheduled to open a second one near Corvallis, Oregon, later this year, bringing the total nationwide to 96.

Together they produce nearly 20% of U.S. electricity and half the electricity from renewable sources that do not emit carbon, according to the NRC. The nuclear plants generate electricity equivalent to nearly 500 greenhouse gas-emitting coal fired power plants.

Also propelling the renaissance is new technology for “small modular reactors.”

They operate like a series of smaller batteries that create minimal risk of the kind of meltdown associated with large nuclear plants, similar to the ones destroyed in disasters at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 and Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986.

Much of the congressional hearing Wednesday was directed at discussing policies that keep the nuclear industry’s innovations coming without sacrificing safety.

“We need an NRC that encourages innovation,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

A recent congressional survey of the nuclear power plant operators identified outdated and burdensome regulations as an impediment to growth of the industry.

Rodgers and other lawmakers sought assurances from NRC officials that they could make the licensing and regulatory process more efficient to remove the impediments.

“We have to streamline the process,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. “Streamlining the process without ensuring safety is not an option.”

NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson said, “I agree, we should be getting more efficient on these.”

The NRC’s efficiency campaign is committed largely to developing better performance metrics to measure its staff’s progress at reviewing compliance with regulations. Many of the regulations cover environmental impact, risks of radiation exposure and storage of nuclear waste.

NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran said the nuclear energy industry is at “a critical moment” in its development.

You can reach us at [email protected] and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Energy

June 21, 2024
by Dan McCue
New Report Finds Energy Use Surging, While Green Transition Sags

LONDON — Global energy consumption, fueled for the most part by fossil fuels, surged to an all-time high in 2023,... Read More

LONDON — Global energy consumption, fueled for the most part by fossil fuels, surged to an all-time high in 2023, according to a new report from the London-based nonprofit Energy Institute. The numbers contained in the 73rd annual edition of the Statistical Review of World Energy... Read More

June 21, 2024
by Dan McCue
Feds Approve Construction, Operations Plan for Offshore Wind Farm

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators on Friday gave their final approval to the construction and operation of a large-scale wind farm... Read More

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators on Friday gave their final approval to the construction and operation of a large-scale wind farm off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Once completed, the Sunrise Wind project, a joint effort of developers Ørsted and Con Ed Transmission, will have... Read More

June 17, 2024
by Dan McCue
UAW Members Approve Contract at Ohio EV Battery Plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — UAW workers at an Ohio plant that supplies the battery cells for General Motors electric vehicles have... Read More

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — UAW workers at an Ohio plant that supplies the battery cells for General Motors electric vehicles have overwhelmingly approved a new contract that ensures significant raises and better health and safety protections. The new contract for workers at Ultium Cells, a joint venture... Read More

June 17, 2024
by Dan McCue
Railway Must Pay Tribe $400M for Trespassing Oil Trains

SEATTLE — The BNSF Railway Co., the largest freight railroad in the United States, must pay a Native American tribe... Read More

SEATTLE — The BNSF Railway Co., the largest freight railroad in the United States, must pay a Native American tribe in Washington state nearly $400 million for years of illegally transporting crude oil-laden tankers across their land. Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik comes... Read More

June 17, 2024
by Dan McCue
Study Finds Data Center Electricity Use Could Double by 2030

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Thanks in large part to artificial intelligence becoming an ever-more entrenched part of the digital economy,... Read More

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Thanks in large part to artificial intelligence becoming an ever-more entrenched part of the digital economy, the demand for power from the data centers the technology relies on could double by 2030, a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute says.... Read More

California Legislators Break With Gov. Newsom Over Loan to Keep State's Last Nuclear Plant Running

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California Legislature signaled its intent on Thursday to cancel a $400 million loan payment to... Read More

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California Legislature signaled its intent on Thursday to cancel a $400 million loan payment to help finance a longer lifespan for the state’s last nuclear power plant, exposing a rift with Gov. Gavin Newsom who says that the power is critical... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top