Barrasso: We Must Ensure American Technologies are Leading the Global Expansion of Nuclear Energy

November 4, 2021

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the potential non-electric applications of civilian nuclear energy. 

The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Shannon Bragg-Sitton, division director for Integrated Energy & Storage Systems at Idaho National Laboratory; Dr. Paul Chodak III, executive vice president of Generation at American Electric Power; and Mr. Michael J. Guastella, executive director of Council of Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals, Inc. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thanks so much Mr. Chairman for holding this very important hearing today. 

“Nuclear technology is fundamental to meeting America’s energy, environmental, and national security needs. 

“Nuclear energy is necessary for reliable, affordable, and resilient electric service. 

“Now more than ever, we need to be looking for opportunities to expand the use of nuclear energy. 

“The U.S. currently has 93 operating commercial reactors in 28 states.

“These reactors provide 20 percent of our electricity. 

“They provide the majority of our carbon-free energy. 

“These reactors could safely remain online for decades. 

“Yet many of our nuclear reactors are facing political and economic pressures to shut down. 

“Since 2013, 12 reactors have shut down. 

“This trend needs to stop. 

“Earlier this year, this committee took an important step by advancing the nuclear credit program. 

“That program will only provide a temporary fix. 

“Reckless federal and state policies are pushing excess amounts of wind and solar energy onto the electric grid. 

“The result is an oversupply of electric capacity that forces nuclear reactors off the grid. 

“In some parts of the country, these policies have caused wholesale electricity prices to drop below zero. 

“Nuclear operators have been left with no choice but to consider ways to reduce costs, increase revenues, or shut down. 

“Today we are discussing potential expanded revenue streams.

“Some nuclear operators are pursuing non-electric applications and other specialized uses. 

“Several nuclear operators are making or considering investments in hydrogen and ammonia production. 

“Others are looking at powering bitcoin mining data centers. 

“Nuclear operators are also considering the production of medical isotopes – elements used in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, like cancer. 

“Each of these innovative applications presents an opportunity to retain our existing nuclear power plants. 

“Innovation will be the key to re-establishing America’s leadership in nuclear energy. 

“Over the next decade, we expect advanced nuclear reactors to be in operation. 

“Advanced reactors will be smaller, safer, and more efficient. 

“They will also generate less nuclear waste.

“Some may even run on previously-used nuclear fuel. 

“My home state of Wyoming will host TerraPower’s Natrium reactor, which will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. 

“It is designed to generate and store electricity. 

“Like existing reactors, advanced nuclear technologies will enable new market opportunities beyond the electricity sector. 

“Unlike existing reactors, which require modifications to enable these applications, advanced reactors are specifically designed for multiple purposes. 

“The heat from advanced nuclear reactors can drive a variety of industrial processes. 

“It can improve the efficiency and economics of chemical, hydrogen, and medical isotope production. 

“Nuclear heat can contribute to enhanced oil recovery. 

“This heat can also clean up wastewater and turn saltwater from our oceans into freshwater. 

“In addition, small advanced reactors are well suited for specialized electricity generation. 

“The Department of Defense is considering transportable micro-reactors for powering remote bases. 

“These same reactors could also provide needed power for disaster recovery. 

“Micro-reactors will even power missions in space. 

“We must ensure American technologies are leading this global expansion of nuclear energy. 

“Today, we will hear about exciting new applications for nuclear energy. 

“These new applications can help make nuclear energy profitable.

“They can also create new markets around the world for American-made nuclear technologies. 

“Thanks so much, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing.

“I look forward to hearing from our panel of experts and look forward to the testimony.”