Sen. Barrasso releases draft bill to strengthen the country’s nuclear infrastructure

Published on August 03, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) released draft legislation that aims to revitalize the nation’s nuclear infrastructure.

The draft bill, called the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020, seeks to enable U.S. international leadership, preserve America’s uranium supply chain, reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen the country’s economic, energy, and national security. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), which Barrasso chairs, will hold a legislative hearing on the draft legislation on Aug. 5.

“America must remain the global leader of nuclear energy in the face of Russian and Chinese competition,” Barrasso said. “The American Nuclear Infrastructure Act will strengthen both our energy and national security interests. Nuclear power is clean and reliable. The draft legislation supports the continued operation of our existing reactors and helps get innovative technologies up and running. It also ensures the nuclear fuel that powers our homes and businesses comes from trusted sources. Wyoming produces more uranium than any other state. The Russians flood the market with cheap uranium to undercut Wyoming’s producers. We can’t put America’s energy security into the hands of our adversaries. This draft bill creates a national uranium reserve, so America can always have the fuel it needs.”

Specifically, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act seeks to re-establish American international competitiveness and global leadership. This would be done by empowering the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactor designs and codifying the Trump administration’s proposal to provide the NRC authority to deny imports of Russian and Chinese nuclear fuel on national security grounds

In addition, it seeks to expand nuclear energy through advanced nuclear technologies. This would be done by making the permitting process for advanced nuclear more predictable and efficient; creating a prize to incentivize the successful licensing process of next-generation nuclear technologies and fuels; and requiring the NRC to identify and update regulatory barriers to enable advanced nuclear technologies to reduce industrial emissions.

Further, it looks to preserve existing nuclear energy by authorizing a targeted credit program to preserve nuclear plants at risk of prematurely shutting down and modernizing outdated rules that restrict investment in nuclear energy.

The legislation aims to revitalize America’s nuclear supply chain infrastructure by developing the advanced nuclear fuels needed to power 21st-century nuclear reactor designs, authorizing a uranium reserve to ensure America does not lose the capacity to fuel its nuclear reactors with American fuel, and identifying modern manufacturing techniques to build better and cheaper nuclear reactors.