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Op-Ed: America's Safe, Clean, Nuclear Future


Location: Washington, DC

There is one thing that people across the ideological spectrum can agree on when it comes to the issue of energy—the United States needs to produce far more clean energy from a source that does not rely on the whims of tyrants in far off parts of the world.

Fortunately, there is a technology out there that produces clean, emission free energy without the need for raw materials imported from unstable countries. Our green energy future is a nuclear future.

With this goal in mind, I have introduced the SAFE Nuclear Act, which stands for Streamline America's Future Energy. The bill provides for a regulatory process that will encourage an increase in the production of this clean, alternative energy.

Nuclear energy is a viable, clean alternative that can help strengthen America's energy infrastructure now. But in order to make that happen, we need regulatory reform in order to speed up the process of approving new nuclear reactors, while ensuring the highest safety standards are observed. Our regulatory structure should be encouraging innovation, not stifling it. Nuclear power can reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and reduce the emissions that come from burning fossil fuels.

The United States gets roughly 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, whereas France derives approximately 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. There is no reason we cannot vastly increase the portion of our electricity that comes from nuclear energy.

My bill fast tracks the regulatory process for approval of new nuclear reactors, reducing the time needed for approval to two years for reactors that meet certain criteria.
The reactor design must already be certified. Any new reactor must be on or adjacent to an existing generation site. The operator of a new reactor may not have outstanding violations on any current reactor with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The bill makes public safety a top priority in any approval of new reactors.

It will also task the NRC with developing regulations that will allow new reactor designs to compete in the marketplace. Customers have been reluctant to purchase new reactor designs because the NRC has not been well equipped to evaluate new designs. This has limited the available designs and reduced the competition in the reactor market, stunting innovation.

With the NRC better equipped to evaluate new designs, the nuclear industry can begin researching, developing, and commercializing the new nuclear technologies that will lead to a nuclear energy renaissance.

The bill would also create a National Nuclear Energy Council. Currently, the national nuclear policy on the federal level is jumbled and disjointed. The Department of Energy and the Department of State, for example, have different priorities when it comes to nuclear energy policy. If we want to truly advance nuclear energy, we need everyone on the same page. A national council would be tasked with coordinating the federal government's policy with the needs of the nuclear industry in a manner that would help advance clean, safe, nuclear energy.

There is no reason people across the political spectrum cannot embrace a future in which the United States produces a majority of its electricity from safe, clean nuclear energy. This clean, nuclear energy future would mean a more secure energy infrastructure and a reduced dependence on those who wish to do harm to America's interests abroad.

Though we may not all agree on issues like cap and trade, we can all agree that we need to find a way to produce the energy that fuels our lives in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Nuclear power fits that description, and the SAFE Nuclear Act will go a long way toward making that safe, clean future a reality.

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