Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mark Udall (D-CO) today introduced legislation to direct the Department of Energy to develop innovative, low-cost nuclear reactors. The Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S.2812) proposes a program to design and certify small modular reactors (< 300 megawatts) which can be built and operated in combination with similar reactors at a single site.
The National Academy of Sciences and numerous other study groups have identified nuclear energy as a promising and essential technical option for meeting our future electricity needs while lowering our overall emissions of greenhouse gases.
Sen. Bingaman: “The climate change problem we face today is too large to exclude any one technology that can produce energy without emitting carbon dioxide. The National Academy’s report acknowledges the important role that nuclear energy must play in a carbon-constrained energy world; this bill is another step to address some of the recommendations of this report.”
Sen. Murkowski: “Small reactors could broaden the application of nuclear energy while also serving as a reliable low-carbon power source for remote and off-grid energy needs such as those in Alaska. In addition, as we look for a global solution to climate change small nuclear reactors could benefit those countries who are interested in nuclear power, but whose electricity grid does not have the capacity to integrate the amount of power a larger reactor would provide. Our bill will provide the impetus to make the development, licensing and deployment of small reactors a priority.”
Sen. Udall: “We need an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to address our energy challenges. Nuclear plants hold enormous potential because they are among the few low-carbon, large-scale sources of baseload power that we know how to build today. This bill will help the Department of Energy develop new ways to make nuclear energy as cost-efficient, safe and secure as possible.”
Smaller reactors can be less capital intensive than the larger 1000-megawatt reactors currently being licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They also have the potential to be built in a modular and step-wise fashion. Under the Bingaman-Murkowski-Udall bill, the Federal effort would be cost-shared with the private sector and selected under a competitive merit review process that emphasizes efficiency, cost, safety and proliferation resistance.
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