Washington D.C. – The Subcommittee on Energy today held a hearing to examine the next generation of reactor designs, including research and development (R&D) at the Department of Energy (DOE) and challenges for private investment in new nuclear energy technology.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Nuclear power is a proven source of emission-free electricity that has been generated safely in the United States for over half a century. However, our ability to move from R&D to market deployment has been hampered by government red tape and partisan politics. The U.S. has not lived up to its potential when it comes to nuclear energy. The regulatory process is cumbersome and lacks the certainty needed for sustained investment in new nuclear energy technology."
Currently, the United States generates approximately 20 percent of its electricity from “light water” nuclear reactors. Dating back to the 1950s, the United States began development and construction of numerous advanced reactor designs for research purposes.
Energy Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.): “Nuclear energy was born in the United States. We have the best scientists and engineers in the world. Yet, we are not seeing the pace of commercial technology advancement that we would expect. At the same time, other countries including China are surging ahead. We have to ask ourselves: is the United States going to remain a global leader in nuclear technology?"
Providing testimony today, Transatomic, a company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, intends to develop a molten-salt reactor design that will turn nuclear waste into a safe, clean electricity. Also providing testimony, NuScale Power, a company based in Corvallis, Oregon, is developing a Small Modular Reactor with safety features that will cool itself down in an accident scenario without the need for any electricity or mechanized systems.
These non-light water reactor designs can also reach higher levels of thermal efficiency, some of which can use nuclear waste as fuel, including fast reactors, high temperature gas-cooled reactors, and liquid salt-cooled reactors.
The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:
The Honorable Peter Lyons, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, U. S. Department of Energy
Dr. Ashley Finan, Senior Project Manager, Energy Innovation Project, Clean Air Task Force
Mr. Mike McGough, Chief Commercial Officer, NuScale Power
Dr. Leslie Dewan, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Transatomic Power
Mr. Daniel Lipman, Executive Director, Policy Development, Nuclear Energy Institute
For more information about the hearing, including witness testimony and the hearing webcast, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.