Murkowski, Booker, and 13 Colleagues Reintroduce the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act

March 27, 2019

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Cory Booker, D-N.J., James Risch, R-Idaho, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Chris Coons, D-Del., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to boost nuclear energy innovation and ensure advanced reactors can provide clean, safe, affordable, and reliable power to meet national and global energy needs. 

S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), aims to reestablish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy. It will bring together private and public sector innovators to develop next-generation advanced reactor concepts.

“As we seek to maintain electric reliability, keep energy prices affordable, and address climate change, nuclear power stands out as one of our very best options,” Murkowski said. “We once led the world in nuclear energy, but have surrendered that position to Russia and China. It is imperative that we reverse that trend and develop advanced nuclear technologies domestically. Our bipartisan bill will provide the tools, resources, and partnerships necessary to reestablish U.S. global leadership, and I thank my colleagues for sponsoring it with me.”

“It’s imperative for the United States to lead the way on tackling the world's climate crisis and that must include the development of clean and innovative technologies like next generation nuclear energy,” Booker said. “This bipartisan bill will spur development of demonstration projects at the Department of Energy, which could become an important source of carbon free electricity generation.”

“Now more than ever, the use of clean and safe nuclear power is an essential component of our nation’s energy security,” Risch said. “This legislation will empower our national labs and industry partners to work together and continue exploring nuclear’s full potential. As our nation’s flagship nuclear energy lab, I am confident that the men and women at the Idaho National Lab will pioneer the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors and help America remain a world leader in nuclear energy.”

“We must find a balance between energy production and the environment. Each technology provides different advantages for energy production, which is why investing in new technologies is so important,” Manchin said. “Our bipartisan legislation provides a pathway to enable private-public partnerships to construct advanced nuclear demonstration reactors over the next two decades, which will help ensure the reliability of our grid, while also offering commercial pathways to construct reactors that provide carbon-free energy and new means of supporting industrial processes.”

“NELA would help launch robust public-private partnerships between the federal government, research institutions like Idaho National Laboratory, and industry innovators to develop, test and deploy new nuclear technologies,” Crapo said. “The legislation will provide a long-term vision and strategy for advanced nuclear energy research in the U.S. and maintain our nation’s leadership in advancing cutting-edge nuclear technology to provide clean, reliable energy.”

“Nuclear power produces 60 percent of all carbon free electricity in the United States. Within the next five years, we need to build one or more advanced reactors to demonstrate the capabilities they may bring—lower cost, increased safety, and less nuclear waste – and this legislation will help do that,” Alexander said.

“New nuclear technologies offer the potential to phase out polluting forms of energy like coal and natural gas.  That would mean a big boost for our energy industry, and a drop in the carbon pollution driving climate change,” Whitehouse said.  “This bill builds on our bipartisan success in clearing a path to market for these advanced technologies, while laying the groundwork to help address the challenge of dangerous nuclear waste.”

“In order to reduce emissions and keep electricity prices affordable for Coloradans, we need an all-of-the-above energy strategy, including nuclear power,” Gardner said. “Nuclear power is a zero-emission baseload power source that is cleaner for the environment and can go a long way in the fight to combat climate change. This bipartisan legislation is an important step forward, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to further our investments in nuclear power.”

“Safe, reliable nuclear energy is a key part of our approach to combating climate change and moving toward a carbon-neutral future,” Coons said. “That’s why I’m working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to support the development and commercialization of next-generation nuclear technologies right here in the United States”

“Advanced reactors are the future – clean, safe, and reliable,” Graham said. “This bipartisan bill ensures the United States remains a leader in advancing nuclear technology.”

“U.S. investors should not need to look to other countries to invest in advanced nuclear technologies.  If we don’t make a concerted effort now to strengthen our clean energy economy, China, Russia, and others will continue to surpass us. This bill is one step we can take toward ensuring our national security and addressing climate change,” Bennet said.

“It’s important that we continue to position the United States as a global energy leader, and that requires us to take full advantage of our energy potential,” Capito said. “Along with our nation’s coal resources, nuclear power can provide critical baseload electricity needed to power our homes and businesses. Our bipartisan legislation will help drive innovation and development when it comes to nuclear power and technology, supporting its important role in an all-of-the-above energy strategy.”

“Developing advanced nuclear technologies to meet our energy needs will not only expand our sources of reliable and affordable energy but will also reduce our carbon footprint,” Portman said. “This legislation helps break down the barriers to advanced nuclear development, ensuring that the U.S. is the leader on nuclear technology and innovation. I have long supported policies that grow the economy and create jobs while reducing emissions, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on this legislation.”

Advanced reactors are the next generation of breakthrough nuclear technologies that will offer significant advantages for power generation. Some are smaller than today’s commercial reactors and can provide increased reliability and resilience to the grid, as well as off-grid power. Others will utilize exotic fuels, materials, and coolants to decrease the cost of delivered power or provide high-temperature process heat for industrial manufacturing.

Although the United States invented and commercialized nuclear power, our leadership has slipped, creating the need for new policies that encourage opportunities for the industry to design and deploy advanced reactor concepts. NELA will help facilitate the path to market for advanced reactors by allowing the federal government to be an early adopter of commercialized technologies; providing for needed scientific research facilities; demonstrating advanced reactor concepts; breaking down fuel availability barriers when the market cannot; and training the next generation of nuclear scientists.

This bill contains several sections, including:

  • Authorization of Long-Term Power Purchase Agreements;
  • Long-Term Nuclear Power Purchase Agreement Pilot Program;
  • Advanced Nuclear Reactor Research and Development Goals;
  • Nuclear Energy Strategic Plan;
  • Versatile, Reactor-Based Fast Neutron Source;
  • Advanced Nuclear Fuel Security Programs; and a
  • University Nuclear Leadership Program.

A copy of the full text of the legislation is available here. Click here for a one-page bill summary and here to view a section-by-section.