WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a legislative hearing to examine S. 2373, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2021, and S. 1290, the STRANDED Act of 2021.
Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Our hearing today is focused on two pieces of bipartisan nuclear energy legislation.
“Today, we will reexamine the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act. This legislation is sponsored by our Ranking Member, Senator Capito, along with Senators Whitehouse, Crapo, Booker, and our former chairman, Senator Barrasso.
“We’ll also discuss the Sensible, Timely Relief for America’s Nuclear Districts’ Economic Development or STRANDED Act for short. Senator Duckworth introduced this legislation along with Senator Collins.
“As we consider the merits of both bills, we’re fortunate to have an expert panel of witnesses joining us. We want to thank each of you for your willingness to be part of this discussion.
“The numbers do not lie. Nuclear energy is, by far, the largest source of reliable, clean energy in our country, generating over half of our nation’s carbon-free electricity. Nuclear power plays a critical role in our efforts to address the climate crisis, while also creating economic opportunity.
“To that end, today’s hearing is an important opportunity to explore how we can help the U.S. energy industry safely develop the technologies necessary to meet our climate goals while also lowering energy costs and boosting economic development across our country.
“With regard to the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act, my hope is that we can build upon and improve the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, which became law in 2019, thanks to the bipartisan work of this committee.
“That act required the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a new regulatory structure for the next generation of nuclear power. This new structure is moving us closer to making advanced nuclear power a reality in this country—and doing so without jeopardizing safety.
“The NRC is not only on time when it comes to meeting its statutory requirements to develop a new framework for licensing advanced reactors, the Commission is currently ahead of schedule. With that thought in mind, we should be careful not to make unnecessary changes to the regulatory process that could undermine this progress.
“Still, it’s been difficult for the NRC to operate under the constraints that the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act requires. In December, NRC Chairman Hanson testified before our committee and expressed concerns about the impact of budgetary caps on the agency’s ability to hire the workforce of the future and take on the challenges of licensing advanced reactor technologies.
“We know that for the NRC to do its job effectively, including processing license applications in a timely manner, the NRC must be adequately resourced. As we work to improve this legislation, I would like for us to ensure that the NRC has the support it needs to continue its safety mission and to hire the best and brightest needed to work on the next generation of nuclear reactors.
“While the next generation of nuclear technology presents new opportunities for clean energy and job creation, I am also all too aware of the economic difficulties facing many nuclear facilities today and the challenges that a closing facility can create for surrounding communities.
“Not unlike auto factories and other advanced manufacturing facilities, when nuclear plants close, it can devastate communities economically. We’ve seen that in Delaware with the loss of the General Motors and Chrysler assembly plants. The loss of highly-skilled, good-paying jobs often leads to smaller tax bases, reduced revenues for local businesses, and depressed housing values. At the same time, these communities are also unfairly burdened with the cost of nuclear waste storage.
“Senator Duckworth’s STRANDED Act would benefit those communities that are working to move past the legacy of their decommissioned nuclear plants and create a brighter, more prosperous future for their residents.
“As my colleagues have oftentimes heard me say, I believe that one of the primary roles of government is to help create a nurturing environment for job creation and preservation. The STRANDED ACT would do just that. I commend Senator Duckworth for her commitment to these communities and her work on this bipartisan bill.
“In closing, I believe that we have an opportunity to help our nation’s nuclear energy industry transition into the future while reducing carbon emissions and creating economic opportunities at home as a result. As we make that transition, it’s imperative that we prioritize safety and equity.”