Congressional Climate Report Sees Role For Nuclear

A U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis report released this week said that existing nuclear power plants are a valuable source of carbon-free energy and the government should “invest in the next generation of nuclear energy technologies.”

nuclear power plantThe 538-page report says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should increase its vigilance of nuclear power plants for the duel reason of maintaining safety as more and more nuclear plants become mothballed due to age and to ensure safety in the next generation of nuclear technology.

The report notes that nuclear power plants in 2019 accounted for half of the country’s carbon-free energy, while also generating 20 percent of the country’s electricity. While doing so, the industry is also responsible for more than 70,000 U.S. jobs.

The call for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to increase its vigilance of aging nuclear plants and next-generation technology runs counter to the NRC’s recent moves to cut back due to plant closings that require less scrutiny than actively operating plants.

Last summer, the NRC recommended a reduction of inspections of plants in part to reduce the cost of plant operations.

The congressional report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America,” urges the NRC to go the other way concerning plant operations. On the research and development side, the report says, “SMR (Small Modular Reactors) and other next-generation nuclear technologies would provide zero-carbon electricity but pose potential safety hazards, including radiological release, waste disposal, and potential proliferation.”

“The NRC would need to play an active oversight role for these technologies,” the report says. Financial support for new technology should be profided “to … support first-of-a-kind or early deployment nuclear power technologies, such as small modular reactors, through R&D, federal financing, loan guarantees, other types of federal credit, or a pilot program for a long-term power purchase agreement for federal agencies, provided the technology meets high standards of safety, including cyber-security, and minimizes proliferation risks.

The report also calls next-generation nuclear power options as “promising.”

The NRC should move forward “to conduct a rigorous climate assessment of any nuclear reactors seeking license renewals, including thorough review of vulnerabilities to potential climate impacts.” The report also says, “Congress should strengthen the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) sustainability program for existing light water reactors to improve their reliability and safety.”

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  • Anonymous

    This is very good news for dying Nuclear power plant industry since last 35 Years. we do not have any New plant built since last 35 years except 2 unit in Waynesboro Georgia if it will ever finish.

    Tulsi M. Lakhani 7/09/2020