Murkowski: U.S. Must Lead the World in Nuclear Energy

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing to examine pathways to reestablish U.S. global leadership in nuclear energy and to receive testimony on S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). 

Murkowski opened the hearing by outlining the historic role the U.S. played in the development of nuclear energy, along with the more recent decline in our global leadership.

“Since 2013, seven U.S. reactors have shut down before the end of their useful life, and more closures are planned,” Murkowski said. “In the meantime, China and Russia have realized nuclear energy’s immense potential and are now considered the international leaders in this space. They are deploying their current reactors at rates far beyond the U.S. and are actively demonstrating advanced reactor technologies.”

Murkowski also spoke to NELA, which she reintroduced earlier this month, in her opening remarks.

“My Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which is cosponsored by Sen. Booker and 16 additional Senators, is designed to reposition the United States as the undisputed world leader in advanced nuclear technology,” Murkowski said. “It will focus the efforts of the Department of Energy on demonstrating advanced reactor concepts, establish a high-assay, low-enriched uranium fuel program, authorize the versatile test reactor, extend university scholarships and fellowships programs, and allow the federal government to be an early adopter of advanced reactors for national security purposes.”

The hearing’s five witnesses echoed the importance of the United States leading globally on nuclear energy and spoke in support of NELA, emphasizing the vital role that nuclear can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the need for the U.S. to take action now or cede our position and influence.

Dr. Mark Peters, director of the Idaho National Laboratory, referenced two pieces of legislation enacted last Congress that are providing important steps “to make sure the U.S. is a world leader in advanced reactor research, development, licensing, and deployment.”

Dr. Peters added, “NELA will help us complete that journey, and ensure that our nation can meet future energy demands, combat climate change, ensure national security, grid reliability and safe operations, and jump-start our economy.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Murkowski asked the witnesses what more needs to be done – beyond the passage of NELA – to ensure a nuclear renaissance. She also asked about microreactors, which have off-grid capability and could help provide clean, affordable energy in military installations as well as remote towns and villages like those across Alaska.

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view her questions for the witnesses.

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