Manchin, Committee Explore Alternative Applications For Civilian Nuclear Energy

Commercial nuclear can provide ‘enormous opportunity’ across West Virginia

November 4, 2021

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the potential range of uses for civilian nuclear energy. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, stressed the role nuclear can play in accelerating breakthroughs across the energy sector, including in clean hydrogen production.

“As developing economies begin to shift to more energy-intensive industries, the U.S. must be on the cutting edge  of developing the technologies required to decarbonize industry. This shift is an enormous opportunity to deploy new technologies domestically and abroad to promote job growth here in the U.S. as the demand increases for nuclear technologies that reduce emissions and deliver industrial products such as hydrogen, chemical feedstock, district heating, water purification, and building materials,” Chairman Manchin said.

Chairman Manchin then questioned witnesses about the feasibility of bringing nuclear power to West Virginia.

“West Virginia’s energy production is about 96% coal, [which is required] for the electricity needs in my state. Do you believe the best direction for the state of West Virginia to go would be, as we transition, to nuclear? Does it make sense because of the footprint that we already have and [our preexisting infrastructure]?” asked Chairman Manchin.

“If you look at it today, fossil generation with carbon capture storage and nuclear are the only two emissions-free, dispatchable sources that we really have that can go multi-days or even seasonal. And when you look at West Virginia, its geology is wonderful to look at but, in terms of storing CO2, not so good. And so, it’s an outstanding opportunity for a small modular reactor to come in there. The key is that we need to be able to get the costs down and be able to take down the risk through energy policy. When you layer in the secondary sources… you’re now looking at West Virginia doing what it used to do with coal, only now it’s doing it with nuclear,” said Dr. Paul Chodak III, Executive Vice President for Generation, American Electric Power.

“[West Virginia’s] coal sites offer us significant infrastructure that these nuclear plants can come in and thereby reduce the cost of installing these plants for those low numbers to make those very competitive. We can take advantage of the grid interconnection… Now another opportunity that those sites offer us is that we now have a carbon-based feedstock that isn’t going to production of electricity, but we could instead use that high quality heat and electricity from a nuclear plant that goes into that site to process that carbon-based feedstock into higher value consumer products, thereby enhancing the economic development of those communities that are being impacted by this energy transition,” said Dr. Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Division Director for Integrated Energy & Storage Systems, Idaho National Laboratory.

The hearing featured witnesses from the Idaho National Laboratory, American Electric Power, and Council of Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals, Inc. To read their testimony click here.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.