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 at a committee legislative hearing 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), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

The hearing featured testimony from Ms. Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of Nuclear Energy Institute; Dr. Ashley E. Finan, policy director of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance; Dr. Tina Back, vice president of Nuclear Technologies and Materials for General Atomics; Dr. Edwin Lyman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists Global Security System; and Ms. Allison Bawden, acting director for Natural Resources and Environment for the Government Accountability Office.

In written testimony submitted to the committee on behalf of the Uranium Producers of America, William Paul Goranson, the executive vice president for Energy Fuels Resources Inc. in Casper, WY, emphasized the need for the United States to sustain a domestic uranium industry. Goranson wrote: “It is imperative that the United States maintain a domestic uranium industry for national security reasons, and the actions of the federal government must encourage the industry and not undermine it. Without a viable long-term domestic uranium industry, the reliability of one-fifth of the U.S. electricity supply could be jeopardized.”   

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“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 by producing more uranium than any other state.

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

“It is 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 to come.   

“After decades of reliable power from our traditional nuclear plants, innovation is taking shape in the nuclear industry. 

“Increased private investment in nuclear energy has led to advancements in safety, security, and cost. 

“These advantages and advancements are exciting.

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

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

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

“Today’s innovators are pursuing very different designs that are using high-temperature gases, 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 enable these innovations.

“That is why I joined my colleagues Senators Whitehouse, Inhofe, Booker, Crapo, Fischer, Capito, Manchin, Casey, and Duckworth to introduce the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.

“Our bipartisan bill seeks to modernize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission 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 advanced reactors need timely decision-making from the NRC.

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

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

“This measure will bring increased transparency and accountability to the NRC, while improving the commission’s efficiency and timeliness.

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

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

“One challenge uranium producers face is the need for clear, predictable regulations. 

“Under current law, the EPA sets ‘standards of general application’ and the NRC implements those standards.

“Yet there is no definition in the Atomic Energy Act for ‘standards of general application.’

“Paul Goranson from Energy Fuels Company in Casper, Wyoming, submitted written testimony for today’s hearing in which he states: ‘Clearly defining standards of general application, without reducing any oversight of the industry, would help clarify the roles and responsibilities of the EPA and NRC, reduce regulatory conflict, and provide for a more effective regulatory framework.’

“I am going to continue to work with the other sponsors to address this more fully.

“Finally, the bill addresses the Department of Energy’s mismanagement of the public’s stockpile of excess uranium.

“Since 2009, the department has repeatedly violated its own written policy and written law when managing the public’s excess uranium.

“As a result, the Department of Energy has failed to obtain a fair return on this uranium for American taxpayers. 

“For example, the Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Energy’s transfers of excess uranium in 2012 may have actually cost taxpayers up to $195 million.

“The Department of Energy’s mismanagement has also contributed to volatility in the uranium market and has led to job losses in many states, like my home state of Wyoming.

“I want to thank Senator Ed Markey and his staff for helping with these specific provisions.

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

“America needs to be the leader of nuclear development.

“We need to create an environment where entrepreneurs can flourish and create jobs here at home that will revitalize our nuclear energy sector.

“The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act does just that.

“This broadly bipartisan bill will strengthen American energy independence, and foster innovation and job creation.”