On March 25, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing entitled “The Latest Developments in the Nuclear Energy Sector with a Focus on Ways to Maintain and Expand the Use of Nuclear Energy in the United States and Abroad.” A recording of the hearing is available here. This full Committee hearing included testimonies from experts in nuclear, including blog contributor and Hogan Lovells Partner Amy Roma, whose testimony can be found here. Her testimony discusses the important benefits nuclear power offers for this country’s national security, economic interests, and climate change goals.
Amy draws on a paper she co-wrote, along with blog author Sachin Desai, and well-known utility executive Mike Wallace, Back from the Brink: A Threatened Nuclear Energy Industry Compromises National Security, to tell the story of this country’s long relationship with commercial nuclear power. As she explained in her testimony, commercial nuclear power has always served as an important tool to achieve U.S. national security objectives and U.S. economic interests, and it is important for the U.S. to maintain global leadership in nuclear power. The global market opportunity for new nuclear projects is huge and growing, with the current market already in the hundreds of billions of dollars. If carbon mitigation measures are deployed, the global nuclear market would be in the trillions of dollars.
While the U.S. has lost out on the global nuclear market over recent years, the U.S. has a significant innovation edge in next generation technologies. In particular, the U.S. leads the world in the development of advanced fission reactors, as well as the nascent fusion industry. These advanced technologies are diverse but share common design features, such as they are designed to be affordable, scalable, and safe, and can be used for both power and non-power applications, such as hydrogen production, water desalination, and process heat for industrial uses.
U.S. innovation, when properly supported, can stand up to state backed competitors from foreign competitors. We saw this recently in the aerospace market. In 2013, Russia controlled about half of the launch industry. Due in large part to the success of SpaceX, shepherded by NASA’s COTS program, Russia is now estimated to capture only 10 percent of the market. Amy argued that we can likewise re-emerge as a global leader in nuclear power, with U.S. government support to help these technologies get off the ground. The opportunity is there, we have the innovation, and the stakes are worth it, she argued.
The following witnesses also testified at the hearing:
- Jeffrey J. Lyash, President & Chief Executive Officer, Tennessee Valley Authority (testimony can be found here).
- Chris Levesque, President & CEO, TerraPower (testimony can be found here).
- Scott Melbye, President, Uranium Producers of America (testimony can be found here).
- J. Clay Sell, Chief Executive Officer, X-energy (testimony can be found here).
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