WRITTEN BY: TONY PEARSON
With gas prices approaching some of their lowest points of the past decade, it can be easy to forget the looming energy crisis that the United States – in addition to every other first world country – is facing.
Even with lower oil prices, a number of governments, including the United States, are looking for alternatives to the world’s current reliance on oil and natural gas. While technologies like solar energy try to overcome issues with cost and efficiency, the world’s most powerful alternative remains one of its most controversial.
Following a Nuclear Summit at the White House, the United States government showed continued and expanded support for nuclear energy in late January by announcing the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, S.2461. This act, with its overwhelming bipartisan support, was easily approved by the legislation with a vote of 87 to 4. Seeking to aid the development of nuclear technologies in the US, S.2461 directs the U.S. Department of Energy to prioritize the development of new reactor concepts through collaboration with private innovators, as well as through tests and demonstrations.
The White House has already voiced its support for the act: “As the Senate works to craft modern, competitive national energy policy, this amendment will help spark the development of our next generation of nuclear capacity, I’m grateful to Senator Crapo and our Republican and Democratic colleagues for taking this step to bring advanced nuclear technologies online to help move us away from the carbon-intensive energy driving global climate change and potentially provide a solution to the management of hazardous nuclear waste.”
This new set of energy policy legislation comes at a time when coal and oil still reign supreme on the world energy production scene. Many governments are looking to nuclear energy because of its efficient nature and practically non-existent carbon emissions. Fuel for nuclear power is cheap and in good supply, and new reactor designs are safer and more efficient than ever. These factors make nuclear energy extremely enticing. Senator Jim Risch, one of the act’s cosponsors, went on to say that “Including clean nuclear energy as part of our nation’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy is a no-brainer […] I’m glad to see so many of my Senate colleagues agree that this legislation can and will do great things to encourage research and partnerships that lead to the next generation of reactors.”
Whether the American public agrees with Risch’s views on nuclear power remains to be seen, as many remain cautious due to the high capital costs and dangerous solid waste associated with nuclear energy. Either way, it is certainly refreshing to see the government making bipartisan movements to try to modernize energy production in the United States.
S.2461 comes attached to the Energy Policy Modernization Bill S.2012, which is now being debated in the Senate.