Bill seeks to stimulate US nuclear innovation

13 January 2016

A US House of Representatives committee has approved a bipartisan bill to support federal research and development (R&D) and stimulate private investment in advanced nuclear reactor technologies. The approval came as President Barack Obama said the country must move away from "dirty energy".

The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology yesterday approved the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act. The bill was introduced by energy subcommittee chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas), along with full committee ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

The legislation directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize federal R&D infrastructure that will enable the private sector to invest in advanced reactor technologies and provide a clear path forward to attract private investment for prototype development at DOE laboratories.

It enables the private sector to partner with national laboratories for the purpose of developing novel reactor concepts, leverages DOE's supercomputing infrastructure to accelerate nuclear energy R&D, and provides statutory direction for a DOE reactor-based fast neutron source that will operate as an open-access user facility. It also authorizes DOE to enable the private sector to construct and operate privately-funded reactor prototypes at DOE sites. In addition, the bill requires DOE to present a transparent, strategic, ten-year plan for prioritizing nuclear R&D programs.

Energy subcommittee chairman Weber said, "American must maintain our R&D capabilities, and continue to develop cutting edge nuclear technology here at home. Without prioritization outlined in this bill, we'll lose the ability to develop innovative nuclear technology and be left importing reactor designs from overseas."

"There are currently technical, economic and policy challenges that prevent nuclear energy from playing a larger role in enabling our clean energy future," said ranking member Johnson. "The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act takes several positive steps to address these challenges.

Committee chairman Smith noted: "Nuclear power has been a proven source of safe and emission-free electricity for over half a century since it was first developed in the United States. Nuclear energy can be a clean, cheap answer to an energy independent, pro-growth, secure future if we let the science and market forces prevail."

The bill will now be debated by the full House of Representatives before passing to Congress.

The approval of the bill by the House committee came on the same day as President Obama gave his eighth and final State of the Union address.

In his speech, Obama said that tackling climate change is an "urgent challenge".

"We've got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy," he said. "Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future - especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That's why I'm going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News