On February 16, the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) issued a report to help guide the Biden Administration in its support of nuclear amidst the President’s ambitious climate agenda. The report, U.S. Advanced Nuclear Energy Strategy for Domestic Prosperity, Climate Protection, National Security, and Global Leadership, provides detailed recommendations to promote advanced reactor development that could garner bipartisan support if implemented. It discusses federal, state-level, and international goals for advancing nuclear.
The next day, February 17, the American Nuclear Society (ANS) published a report on Public Investment in Nuclear Research and Development that requests an additional $10.3B by 2030 in funding for demonstration reactors and projects aimed to streamline commercialization of advanced nuclear. While the NIA and PGS report establishes a roadmap for advanced reactor development, the purpose of the ANS report is to make a case for increased federal investment in nuclear.
Here are some of the recommendations from the NIA/PGS report:
- The executive and legislative branches should coordinate to prioritize advanced reactors. Legislative action should ensure sufficient appropriations for U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) activities, fund demonstration projects with the goal of commercialization, provide incentives for first-of-a-kind nuclear plants (e.g. tax credits, grants, loan guarantees), prioritize research and development (R&D) funding, and support university research.
- Industry should develop business models applicable to nuclear energy (e.g. direct power sales, project financing, etc.), strengthen the workforce through diversity and inclusion and create attractive job positions, work on providing lower costs for consumers, and ensure that reactors follow global security requirements.
- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should aim to develop a final rule for Part 53 by October 2024 and in doing so, ensure that licensing for advanced reactors is affordable and timely. The NRC should also address challenges for certain non-electric applications.
- Congress and regulating agencies should provide support of High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel and its associated commercial capabilities, while addressing impacts of uranium mining.
- States can include advanced nuclear energy in their renewable portfolio standards and eliminate restrictions that prevent advanced nuclear power plant construction.
- The U.S. should engage with the international community to coordinate multinational deals and develop an export control framework that ensures non-proliferation commitments. It should also assess Russia and China’s nuclear portfolios in order to identify challenges and lessons learned.
- Congress should eliminate the foreign ownership, control, or domination (FOCD) provision in the Atomic Energy Act for U.S. allies to encourage foreign investment in American nuclear energy.
The following are some highlights from the ANS report:
- The report recommended doubling of nuclear R&D funding to enable advanced reactor development. It noted that the recommended funding ($10.3B over 9 years) requested is only 0.6% of President Biden’s climate plan.
- Nuclear should receive further funding for its promise of clean energy, national security, and job creation. Nuclear power plants generate 54.8% of carbon free-electricity and prevent 505.8 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Nuclear also adds $60 billion to the GDP and contributes $42.4B a year to the U.S. national security.
- Federal funding is necessary to lower costs, speed up deployment, and further encourage private investment, which has already increased due to a market demand for zero-carbon energy. Nuclear power is the only energy source that can fit in utility companies’ energy portfolios and still maintain grid reliability and affordability.
- Market opportunities for advanced nuclear energy is growing. For example, nuclear reactors can be a source of hydrogen production and DOE is currently exploring this option.
- The U.S. would fall behind countries like Russia and China if there is a lack of appropriate funding. Russia and China are leading in nuclear reactor exports and the U.S. has no foreign orders in a market valued at $500-740 billion over the next decade. Without additional funding that capitalizes on U.S. private-public partnerships, the U.S. risks losing its voice in global nuclear safety and nonproliferation norms.
- Nuclear energy also drives a number of other industry sectors like the medical industry that relies on radioisotopes to treat cancer, and NASA which uses microreactors in space exploration.
- Every phase of nuclear R&D must be funded, including innovation (e.g. advances in technology, research on economics and societal acceptance of nuclear, etc.), development (e.g. providing necessary data for fuels to be used commercially), demonstration (e.g. identifying opportunities for cost reductions, answering regulatory questions, etc.), and deployment (e.g. providing support for HALEU).
Both of these reports highlight the important role nuclear plays in today’s energy sector, which thrives on diversification of sources, grid reliability, and the goal of a zero-carbon future.
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