BPC Action Commends Bipartisan Introduction of the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) in Energy and Environment

BPC Action commends Sens. Murkowski (R-AK) and Booker (D-NJ) for introducing the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). The bill will facilitate the development and deployment of advanced nuclear reactor designs; provide a long-term strategic direction for federal nuclear energy research; and facilitate the establishment of domestic fuel supply chains critical to America’s long-term energy security and global leadership.

The United States has long been a leader in nuclear energy technology, having developed the world’s first nuclear reactor over 60 years ago before transferring the technology’s commercial development to the private sector. To date, nuclear energy has made and continues to make significant contributions to our energy security and economic growth, providing 20 percent of total U.S. electricity and 60 percent of our carbon-free electricity in 2017, in addition to contributing $60 billion to U.S. GDP.

With the global advanced nuclear industry projected to grow, American companies have begun developing and testing advanced nuclear reactor designs, which are lower-cost, more modular, and more efficient than existing designs. However, U.S. industry faces sizeable challenges that are impeding their ability to develop the next generation of nuclear energy technologies. This stands in stark contrast to nations like Russia and China, which are accelerating the development of advanced nuclear energy technology and infrastructure. This has significant implications for U.S. national security since we rely on these and other nations to enrich uranium to certain levels and produce fast neutrons – processes essential to produce nuclear energy and test advanced reactors, but for which there are currently no domestic facilities in the United States.

The bipartisan NELA bill aims to reassert America’s leadership in this vital industry by facilitating the development of advanced nuclear energy technology and the infrastructure necessary to support it. Notably, NELA would establish a pilot program at the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a long-term contract for a first-of-its-kind advanced reactor; set a long-term strategic vision for nuclear energy research needs at DOE; establish a domestic fast neutron research facility; allow DOE to provide high-assay low-enriched uranium from its stockpiles to advanced reactor developers until a long-term domestic commercial supply is developed; and create a university nuclear leadership program to strengthen the U.S. nuclear energy workforce.

The United States government and industry have demonstrated time and again how they can partner together to develop game-changing energy technologies. The provisions in NELA would facilitate these crucial partnerships to spur the development of the next generation of nuclear energy technologies and ensure America’s continued leadership in an industry that has an outsized impact on our national security and international competitiveness. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to make progress on these important issues.