Committee Introduces Bipartisan Nuclear R&D Bill
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) today led U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in introducing the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (H.R. 431). Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) today also introduced companion legislation in the Senate chamber.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “I am pleased to be an original co-sponsor the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which will accelerate the development of advanced nuclear energy technologies. This legislation provides a path forward to ensure that the Department of Energy prioritizes research, development, and demonstration activities that can impact electricity generation, national security, and even space exploration.
“America has a long history of leadership in nuclear energy, which is a clean, zero emissions source of energy. The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act promotes cutting edge nuclear technology and helps maintain America’s global leadership in this critical field. The bill also provides innovators at our national labs, universities, and in the private sector the tools necessary to develop next generation reactors. I look forward to working with our colleagues to getting this bill swiftly passed and to the president’s desk for signature.”
Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas): “I am very pleased to once again co-sponsor the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act. This legislation would accelerate the development of advanced nuclear energy technologies that are safer, less expensive, more efficient, and produce less waste than the current generation of nuclear reactors. Nuclear power currently plays a pivotal role in providing our country with reliable energy. As a nation, nuclear energy produces about 20 percent of our total electric power, and it provides 9 percent of the electricity generated in the great state of Texas – all with essentially no greenhouse gas emissions. This bill will ensure that innovators at our national labs, universities, and in the private sector have the tools they need for nuclear energy to play a key role in enabling our nation’s clean energy future.”
Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas): “I am honored to re-introduce the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act in the 115th Congress. This legislation requires the Department of Energy to prioritize its R&D infrastructure on capabilities that will enable the private sector to develop advanced reactor technologies. The potential advancements have the ability to yield increased safety, less waste, zero air emissions, and greater resistance to proliferation. Nuclear technology is vital to our national security and global leadership in nuclear safety. It is time for Congress to legislate these priorities.”
Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho): “Nuclear energy is an underutilized source of safe, reliable and clean energy. With strong, bipartisan support, we can eliminate barriers to innovation and increase the role it plays in our domestic energy portfolio. I support the efforts of the House Science Committee to find ways to bring together our national labs and private sector in order to continue to drive the nuclear industry forward.”
This legislation directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize research and development (R&D) infrastructure that will enable the private sector to invest in advanced reactor technologies and provides a clear path forward to attract private investment for prototype development at DOE labs.
DOE carries out civilian nuclear energy R&D through the DOE labs and universities which provide research infrastructure and employ highly trained scientists to maintain the nation’s critical R&D capabilities. The U.S. regulatory system, managed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), creates a barrier to investment for advanced reactor technologies because it is ill-equipped to process licenses in a timely and predictable manner, which further suppresses private investment and technology development.
Summary of Major Provisions
- Amends DOE’s civilian nuclear energy R&D mission to ensure that the Department enables the private sector to partner with national labs for the purpose of developing novel reactor concepts.
- Provides programmatic authority for DOE to leverage its supercomputing infrastructure to accelerate nuclear energy R&D capabilities for advanced reactor technologies.
- Provides statutory direction for a DOE reactor-based versatile neutron source that will operate as an open-access user facility and enable researchers to conduct academic and proprietary research in the United States.
- Authorizes DOE to enable the private sector to construct and operate privately-funded reactor prototypes at DOE sites.
- Requires DOE to put forth a transparent, strategic, 10-year plan for prioritizing nuclear R&D programs while considering budget constraints.
Cosponsors include Chairman Lamar Smith, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson, U.S. Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), U.S. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), U.S. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).