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Statement of Ranking Member Randy Weber on Amendment to H.R. 6097

Mar 11, 2020
Opening Statement
Energy Subcommittee Markup of H.R. 6084, H.R. 6097, H.R. 4481, and H.R. 4733

Thank you, Chairwoman Fletcher.

I’ll start by restating an important part of my opening statement: I support Representative Lamb’s intent with this legislation, and I am committed to continuing our discussions on this bill to reach a place of bipartisan agreement.

I appreciate and respect the Science Committee’s tradition of working collaboratively on transformative energy technology R&D like advanced nuclear. Over the years – most recently with the enactment of NEICA - I’ve seen the great things we can accomplish when we work together.

I think we can all agree that DOE’s world-leading research and development enterprise is one of our nation’s greatest assets. These activities deserve our full attention and strong support. Yet, with national debt at $23 trillion and rising, we must continue to do our due diligence.

It is my belief that the nuclear legislation we will consider today takes a step too far. As written, this bill would reach close to $2 billion in authorized funds by Fiscal Year 2025. For context, DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy received $1.3 billion last year alone.

In Congress, we have to consider the whole picture and make hard decisions. And for an issue as critical as advanced nuclear, we can’t afford to take a broad brush approach. We need to take our time and think about what truly requires the focus of our federal dollars.

That is why this morning I am offering an amendment in the nature of a substitute. This amendment offers an optimized solution.

It identifies the most vital nuclear energy priorities, ones that have the greatest potential for supporting the future of the American nuclear industry and will provide the largest return on our investment in the clean energy future.

The fact is, despite advances in modeling and despite calls for various demonstration projects, advanced nuclear fuels and technologies rely on validation through direct experimentation in the lab. That’s why the central piece of my amendment is full funding for the construction of the Versatile Neutron Source, a user facility capable of producing the fast neutrons needed to test many advanced reactor designs.

In addition to authorizing research in advanced nuclear reactors and fuels, directing the Secretary to carry out a nuclear energy strategic plan, and streamlining nuclear high-performance computing activities, my amendment also includes a vital authorization of DOE’s successful public-private partnerships program. In the past few years, we have seen private companies benefit from leveraging the facilities and resources that DOE has to offer.

As a result of this partnership, it is very likely that several of these companies may soon be able to license a commercial reactor. This would be a tremendous accomplishment for all those involved.  By authorizing this program, we can continue to drive success for the U.S. nuclear energy industry.

I want to be clear, I support substantial Federal investment in advanced nuclear technologies. In order to maintain our leadership in nuclear power, the United States must continue developing cutting edge technology here at home. We cannot afford to miss the economic opportunity provided by next-generation nuclear technology, and we can’t let our best scientists and engineers go overseas.

As always, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work alongside my Science Committee colleagues to prioritize fundamental research that will support nuclear innovation and keep America safe, independent, and globally competitive.

I recognize that my amendment is a starting point in our discussion. With your commitment to a good faith negotiation and consideration of our concerns, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.

I hope my message is clear and impactful to my colleagues and with that, I withdraw my amendment.

Thank you and I yield back.

116th Congress