Barrasso: We Must Re-establish America as the Global Leader in Nuclear Energy

November 30, 2023

Click here to watch Senator Barrasso’s opening 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 remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the opportunities and challenges associated with advanced nuclear reactor commercialization.

The hearing featured testimony from Dr. John C. Wagner, Director, Idaho National Laboratory; Dr. Jeff Waksman, Program Manager, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Strategic Capabilities Office; Mr. Edward Stones, Vice President, Energy and Climate, Dow Inc.; and, The Honorable Jeffrey S. Merrifield, Former Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, current Vice Chair, U.S. Nuclear Industry Council and Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thanks for holding today’s hearing.

“Nuclear energy is fundamental. Fundamental to meeting our energy, our environmental, and our national security objectives.

“The United States generates more electricity from nuclear power than any other country in the world.

“At the same time, we are heavily reliant on foreign sources of uranium to fuel our existing nuclear reactors.

“We lack the ability to fuel new advanced reactors that developers are looking to build in the next decade.

“That’s why the Senate voted 96 to 3 to adopt the nuclear fuel security amendment that Chairman Manchin and I filed to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

“It is critically important that we enact this provision into law.

“Russia and China are on the cusp of obtaining a commanding share of the nuclear energy market.

“For decades, they have undermined America’s nuclear industry.

“They are using their position in the market to further their military and their geopolitical objectives.

“Russia controls half of the world’s enrichment capacity.

“Putin uses revenue from sales of enriched uranium to support his brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine.

“China seeks to steal U.S. technology for its own gain.

“The world is eager to reap the benefits of nuclear power.

“We can’t allow Russia and China to dominate this global market.

“And we must re-establish America as the global leader in nuclear energy.

“We are the global leaders in nuclear technology development.

“We should also be the global leaders in nuclear technology deployment.

“The world is ready to buy America’s superior nuclear reactors – they want to see them operating first.

“As of May of this year, more than 20 nuclear projects were under consideration across North America.

“We have a map right here of all these under consideration.

“The Department of Energy is supporting several of these advanced reactor projects.

“This includes TerraPower’s Natrium reactor which will be built in my home state of Wyoming.

“Not all of these projects are going to be successful.

“This was made clear to us earlier this month when, the Chairman made mention of it in his opening statement, when NuScale cancelled its project with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.

“Last week, we learned the Air Force rescinded a contract for the advanced reactor in Alaska.

“I understand the Air Force still intends to pursue an advanced reactor in the state.

We must have several options in development.

“We also need to build more than one of any given design.

“America’s nuclear industry has a history of building first-of-a-kind reactors.

“We move on to the newest design before benefitting from the cost savings garnered through repetition.

“We can’t continue this pattern.

“We must successfully demonstrate first-of-a-kind advanced reactors.

“Then we need to deploy two, three, four or more of those units.

“Reactor vendors need sufficient orders on their books to justify mass marketing and mass manufacturing.

“That is how we make nuclear more affordable.

“America’s nuclear industry is competing against state-owned entities in Russia and China.

“The U.S. government has an important role to play supporting America’s nuclear industry.

“We should make strategic investments.

“The federal government can serve as a customer.

“The Defense Department is already considering procuring a micro-reactor for its operations in Alaska.

“The Department of Energy’s 17 national labs could also use advanced reactors.

“To be clear, Congress can’t provide limitless funding or tax credits.

“We shouldn’t enact policies that distort local electricity markets.

“We can, however help to reduce the financial risks for reactor developers.

“I am particularly interested in how Congress can redirect existing appropriations or programs.

“I want to thank the witnesses for joining us today.

“I look forward to their testimony.”