Washington Times: Harnessing nuclear power key to U.S. energy independence
Congress should pass the Nuclear Fuel Security Act
Washington, November 7, 2023
Just outside the village of Piketon, Ohio, a clean, renewable form of energy is on the brink of being unleashed.
Centrus Energy, the first high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, production site in the United States licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is leading the way in advancing U.S. gas centrifuge uranium enrichment technology to produce HALEU. In other words, HALEU is a high-performing nuclear fuel that has become essential to power new nuclear reactors.
According to Centrus, just 750 grams, or about 3 tablespoons, of HALEU can meet the average American’s electricity needs for life.
Based on this statistic alone, it is difficult to argue against the case for increasing domestic nuclear energy production.
As a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee in Congress, I have long advocated investment in and expansion of U.S. nuclear energy. I strongly believe that by shoring up our nuclear energy production, we can expand job opportunities, strengthen our economy, and reduce carbon emissions, all while meeting the energy needs of Americans.
To learn more about efforts to expand nuclear energy technology and inform my legislative work in Congress, I recently visited Centrus’ plant in Piketon. It was encouraging to hear directly from those on the ground that they are on the way to producing HALEU by the end of the year.
While this is a great step forward in the mission to establish U.S. nuclear fuel independence, it is clear we have an uphill climb to get there.
After leading the world for decades in the development of nuclear energy, the harsh truth is the U.S. has fallen behind our allies and rivals. Our competitive edge has diminished, and the U.S. now must import 90% of the uranium fuel used in our nuclear reactors.
This dangerous reliance on other nations, including Russia, threatens our national security and energy independence.
Look at countries like France, which have successfully integrated nuclear energy into their energy portfolios. France develops around 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy and is now the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to the low cost of energy generation.
With the threat of brownouts and blackouts in summer, it is clear the U.S. electric grid is struggling to keep up with Americans’ energy demands. In front of the Energy and Commerce Committee this year, officials from the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission both confirmed to me that we need more power generation in the U.S., not less.
I believe harnessing the power of nuclear energy has the potential to mitigate this seemingly yearly energy crisis and meet our nation’s energy needs.
So, if there are advantages to ramping up the production of domestic nuclear energy, where do we begin?
We must make sure the U.S. has the programs and facilities in place to mine, produce, enrich, convert and stockpile our own sources of nuclear fuel. With this certainty in place, we can grow our nuclear industry and create thousands of new jobs across various sectors.
In Congress, I am working on legislation to do just that. Just weeks ago, I worked with Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, to introduce the bipartisan Nuclear Fuel Security Act. The bill has now cleared its first legislative hurdle by advancing through the Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security.
If enacted into law, this bill would establish and expand critical U.S. nuclear fuel programs that will boost domestic uranium mining, production, enrichment, and conversion capacity. Ultimately, it would put us on a path of strengthening nuclear energy capabilities and eliminating dependence on other countries for nuclear fuel. I will continue to advocate for its swift approval through Congress so it can be sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
I recognize there is much more work that needs to be done to increase our nuclear energy production. But I also know this for certain: With its low carbon emissions and ability to provide cost-effective and reliable energy, nuclear power has the potential to set our nation on a path toward energy independence.
It is time we fully embrace nuclear power as a vital tool in an all-of-the-above energy approach to create a sustainable energy future for our country and people.