Bipartisan Nuclear Energy Innovation Bill Heads to President’s Desk

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today released the following statement after the House of Representatives’ cleared S. 97, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), which creates partnerships between private sector innovators in nuclear energy with government researchers to create the next generation of clean, advanced nuclear power.

NEICA was led by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and cosponsored by Sens. Murkowski, Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Cory Booker, D-N.J., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. This bill is the result of years of bipartisan collaboration and work to develop technologies that allow for the greater, more efficient use of nuclear energy.   

“Nuclear power is an essential part of our nation’s electricity supply, providing clean, safe, efficient, and reliable power to American families and businesses,” Murkowski said. “At a time when our nuclear power capabilities have been slipping, this bill — soon to be law — will help the United States reestablish itself as a world leader in nuclear energy innovation.”

“The passage of this legislation underscores the strong bipartisan commitment in Congress that nuclear energy must be maintained as a reliable, safe, clean and efficient part of our national energy portfolio,” Crapo said. “S. 97 will eliminate barriers to innovation within the private sector and strengthen collaboration with our national labs to maintain American preeminence in nuclear energy. I am proud of the bipartisan, bicameral work to pass this critical legislation and thank my colleagues Senator Whitehouse, Chairman Murkowski and the other co-sponsors of this legislation for their support in championing these important reforms.”

“Nuclear energy technologies are advancing in ways that can help our energy industry and climate alike,” Whitehouse said. “Partnerships between the private sector and our world-class scientists at national labs will help bring new technologies forward to compete against polluting forms of energy like coal and natural gas. They may also move forward technologies that could actually reduce our existing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel. I am proud to have worked with Senator Crapo to get this bipartisan energy legislation over the finish line.”

“Today’s House vote brings us one step closer to advancing innovative partnerships that will drive the next generation of reliable, clean nuclear power,” Risch said. “As home to the Idaho National Lab, our nation’s nuclear energy lab, Idaho is a natural leader in this public-private endeavor and I will continue to support INL’s leadership as they develop advanced nuclear technology.”

“Illinois serves a critical role in nuclear energy production in America, ranking first for nuclear power generation, producing one-tenth of the nuclear power generated in America, and being home to the Argonne National Laboratory,” Durbin said. “I was proud to join Senator Crapo on this bipartisan bill and I‘m glad it is one step closer to final passage. This legislation will help ensure America is leading the way in producing safe and reliable nuclear energy.”

“I’m proud to have supported the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which represents a critical step in advancing the future of nuclear energy, a key element of a diverse American energy portfolio,” Hatch said. “This legislation will help ensure that the United States is a leader in nuclear technology for years to come.”

“Reducing our carbon emissions as quickly as possible requires prioritizing the development and commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors, which will be even safer and more efficient than current reactors,” Booker said. “Passage of this legislation will provide critical support to start-up companies here in the U.S. that are investing billions of dollars in these next generation reactor designs.”

NEICA directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize partnerships with private innovators to test and demonstrate advanced reactor concepts. It authorizes the creation of a National Reactor Innovation Center that brings together the technical expertise of the National Labs and DOE to enable the construction of experimental reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would partner with DOE in this effort, which would enable the NRC to contribute its expertise on safety issues while also learning about the new technologies developed through the Center. This measure strengthens the ability of National Laboratories to partner with private industry to prove the principles behind their ideas.

S. 97 was reported favorably by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in this Congress by voice vote, passed in the Senate on March 7, 2018, and passed today in the House. The bill will head to the president’s desk for signature.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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