WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled “One Year of Progress: An Update on Implementation of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.”
The hearing featured testimony from Margaret Doane, executive director of operations at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and Ben Ficks Jr., deputy chief financial officer at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Nuclear power is a reliable, clean source of energy.
“Nuclear power plants generate electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“Nuclear energy is also resilient.
“It produces power through cold snaps, heat waves, and snowstorms.
“And it does so without emitting carbon dioxide.
“Preserving and expanding our use of nuclear energy is necessary to address climate change.
“Our nation’s nuclear power plants are operating at historically high levels of safety and performance.
“Despite this, challenging electricity markets have led to a shrinking nuclear industry.
“It is time to reverse this trend.
“To do so, this committee led efforts to pass the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act or NEIMA.
“Congress overwhelmingly supported this bipartisan legislation.
“One year ago, President Trump signed the bill into law.
“This morning we will review the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s implementation of that law.
“The law provides certainty to assist today’s nuclear power plants.
“The law revises how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission manages its finances.
“This is important for a number of reasons.
“One is to provide a predictable regulatory cost for nuclear utilities.
“The law prioritizes agency spending on activities that directly support its regulatory mission.
“It establishes performance metrics and milestone schedules to increase accountability and certainty for major licensing actions.
“The law also requires the commission take both short-term and long-term actions to develop and deploy advanced nuclear technologies.
“Advanced reactors will be designed differently than current nuclear reactor designs.
“Smaller, safer nuclear technologies should not be subject to the rigid, costly requirements imposed on yesterday’s designs.
“The law requires the modernization of nuclear safety rules.
“The commission has taken important initial steps to implement the bill.
“In December, the commission approved a proposed rule for emergency planning for advanced nuclear reactors.
“The commission also approved a first of its kind permit for the Tennessee Valley Authority to site a small modular reactor.
“I applaud the commission for the efforts so far.
“There is still a lot of work work to do.
“The new financial management requirements take effect in the upcoming fiscal year.
“The commission’s forthcoming budget must be in line with the law’s intent.
“American ratepayers and nuclear licensees fund the organization.
“As a result, budgetary resources must be responsibly managed.
“As nuclear power plants shut down, the agency must make real reductions of staff and resources proportionate with the reduced workload.
“Within the next year, the commission must establish a strategy to license advanced technologies using the existing regulatory framework.
“This short-term approach complements the long-term development of a new regulatory framework.
“The commission must be smart about developing new safety regulations.
“America’s nuclear innovators and entrepreneurs need confidence that the licensing process is predictable and affordable.
“The rules should appropriately reflect the increased performance and lower risk of new reactor designs.
“As the commission continues to implement the law, other key nuclear energy issues must be addressed.
“The significant benefits of clean, nuclear energy will be limited until Washington keeps its promise to permanently dispose of nuclear waste.
“Advanced nuclear technologies can generate less nuclear waste.
“Some may even produce electricity from previously used nuclear fuel.
“Advanced nuclear technologies cannot eliminate the need for a permanent nuclear waste program.
“Legislation I introduced will help get our nation’s nuclear waste program back on track.
“Another critical issue is the source of our nuclear fuel.
“America’s uranium miners are struggling to stay in business due to Russia’s manipulation of the uranium market.
“Many of those hard-working miners live in my home state of Wyoming.
“Six months ago, President Trump recognized the national security implications of relying on foreign countries for uranium.
“He established a Nuclear Fuel Working Group to recommend actions to revive our nuclear fuel cycle.
“We are still waiting for those recommendations from the working group.
“American uranium producers need immediate assistance and certainty.
“It is time for action.
“The one year anniversary of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act becoming law gives us a great opportunity to discuss these important issues facing America’s nuclear industry.
“Nuclear power is clean, reliable and carbon free.
“We must continue to support this important energy technology.”