Advancing Clean Nuclear Energy

Pete Ricketts Weekly Column

Supporting nuclear energy is one of my priorities as the Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety. The United States used to be the world’s leader in nuclear energy. We can and must lead the world again. My colleagues and I recently took a step toward making that a reality by sending the ADVANCE Act to President Biden’s desk. 

We must preserve and expand our use of nuclear energy. This will advance our country’s energy and national security interests. Nuclear energy is reliable and clean. America has 93 operating nuclear reactors. This includes Nebraska’s own Cooper Nuclear Station. These reactors generate around 20 percent of our nation’s electricity. They also generate more than half of our carbon-free energy. Adding new nuclear reactors will help provide better reliability to our energy grid.

I co-led the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act with Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Our bill will facilitate America’s nuclear leadership, modernize current technology, and improve the environment. It will benefit operating reactors like Nebraska’s own Cooper Nuclear Station. It will also assist the decommissioning of reactors like Fort Calhoun.  

Our bipartisan legislation will help position America as the undisputed international leader for nuclear energy technologies. The ADVANCE Act empowers the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors. It also establishes a new initiative to facilitate outreach to nations that are seeking to develop advanced nuclear energy programs. 

Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine highlights our critical need to restore American leadership. American allies want to deploy new nuclear technologies to reduce their dependence on Russian energy. American leadership can make that happen. Our bill supports jobs here at home and reduces our allies’ dependence on our adversaries. 

The ADVANCE Act will develop and deploy new nuclear technologies. It reduces regulatory costs for companies seeking to license advanced nuclear reactor technologies. It incentivizes the successful deployment of next-generation nuclear reactor technologies. It also requires the NRC to develop a pathway to enable more timely licensing decisions. By cutting red tape and incentivizing innovation, we can kickstart the process of building the technologies of the future. 

It's also important to preserve existing nuclear energy. Our bill does that too. It modernizes outdated rules that restrict international investments in nuclear. It extends a long-established indemnification policy necessary to enable continued operation of today’s reactors. This will give certainty for capital investments and help build more new reactors. 

Additionally, the ADVANCE Act will strengthen our supply chain infrastructure while providing efficient oversight. It identifies modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper, and smarter. It also provides the Nuclear Regulatory Commission better tools to hire and retain qualified, specialized staff. NRC staff play critical roles in reviewing and approving advanced nuclear reactor licenses. Our bill requires new performance metrics and milestone schedules. This will ensure licensing decisions are made efficiently, successfully, and safely. 

Restoring American leadership in nuclear energy will create jobs. It will strengthen our energy and national security. It will also improve the environment. The ADVANCE Act will help us get there. Our bill now heads to President Biden’s desk. I urge him to sign it.