Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks

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 on the Senate floor on S. 512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.

The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

S. 512 will promote innovation in the nuclear sector by enabling processes for licensing new reactors. This legislation will modernize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by establishing new transparency and accountability measures to the commission’s budget and fee programs.

Additionally, the act will improve the efficiency of uranium regulation. Finally, it will bring transparency and accountability to the process by which the Department of Energy disposes of the American public’s stockpile of excess uranium.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Mr. President, I rise today to speak about bipartisan legislation, legislation designed to strengthen our nation’s nuclear energy capacity.

“It’s called the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act

“I am a strong supporter of American nuclear energy. 

“It is a vital component of our all-of-the-above, American energy plan. 

“My home state of Wyoming plays a key role in the American nuclear energy supply. We produce, in Wyoming, more uranium than any other state.

“Nuclear energy is clean, it is safe, it is reliable, and it is affordable.

“It’s also a major boost for the economy.

“American nuclear plants provide thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in benefits to local communities. 

“U.S. nuclear power plants have run safely for decades and many will serve our country for years and decades to come.  

“But after decades of reliable power from our traditional nuclear power plants, these nuclear plants are now experiencing innovation with opportunities that are now taking shape in the nuclear industry. 

“Increased private investment is occurring in nuclear energy and it has led to improvements in safety, in security, and in cost. 

“This is no longer your traditional nuclear industry. 

“There are nuclear start-ups, which are being backed by American entrepreneurs, research and work being done by Bill Gates of all people, and these folks envision fundamentally transforming nuclear energy technology. 

“The advancements I believe are exciting.

“The biggest challenges these innovators face are the costs and delays from regulatory red tape.

“Many of these delays come from trying to navigate a regulatory system that was developed around one specific technology, which were water-cooled reactors.

“Traditional water-cooled reactors have powered our Navy and our electricity grid and done it successfully for decades.

“Today’s innovators are pursuing very different designs

“They are using high-temperature gases, they are using molten salts, and other high-tech materials to advance the safety, efficiency, and reliability of nuclear energy. 

“The nuclear regulatory system needs to be updated to allow for this innovation.

“That is why I joined my colleagues today to in introduce the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.

“Cosponsors include: Senators Whitehouse, Inhofe, Booker, Crapo, Fischer, Capito, and Manchin

“And so we come today to introduce S. 512.

“Our bipartisan bill seeks to modernize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and it does this by providing a flexible regulatory framework for licensing advanced nuclear reactors.

“The NRC needs a modern regulatory framework that is predictable and efficient.

“Reactor operators for both traditional and for advanced reactors need timely decision-making from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“At the same time, the commission needs to maintain the ability to assess a variety of technologies and at the same time, meet its mission of ensuring safety and security for the American people.

“Additionally, our legislation will update the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s fee recovery system.

“This measure is going to bring increased transparency and accountability to the NRC, while also improving the commission’s efficiency and timeliness

“This bill will also help to preserve the uranium producers who are essential to powering the technology.

“The Energy Information Administration reports that uranium production in 2016 was at its lowest level since way back in 2005. 

“It is crucial that we restore our American uranium sector and preserve these important jobs.

“Our bipartisan legislation is going to enable the development of innovative reactors with bold, new technologies.

“Now, as a nation we can either lead this technology revolution or we can defer to our competitors. 

“Mr. President, China and Russia are developing advanced technologies regardless of what we do here in the United States. 

“America needs to be a leader of nuclear development.

“We need to create an environment where entrepreneurs can flourish.

“This is the way to create jobs here at home and revitalizing our nuclear energy sector at the same time.

“One way to enable innovation for advanced reactors is to provide a regulatory framework that is predictable and cost-effective.

“A regulatory framework that maintains the NRC’s safety and security mission. 

“Because that is their mission.

“The bill we are introducing today, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, does all of these things.

“This broadly bipartisan bill and you’ve heard the list of cosponsors, will strengthen American energy independence, and foster innovation and job creation. 

“I thank Senators Whitehouse, Inhofe, Booker, Crapo, Fischer, Capito, and Manchin for cosponsoring this legislation and I urge its support.”