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Senator Shelley Moore Capito Leads to ADVANCE Nuclear Energy

As the need for clean, reliable energy increases, more lawmakers are turning to America’s largest source of carbon-free power—nuclear energy. While it is among the safest and cleanest sources of energy on the market today, nuclear power has been held back by outdated policies and regulations that have inflated costs and stifled innovation. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) is leading the charge to address these challenges through legislative reforms such as the ADVANCE Act.

>>>READ: Congress and Regulators Agree: Nuclear Power Needs a Faster Licensing Pathway

The ADVANCE Act, which enjoys bipartisan, bicameral support, would reduce timelines for nuclear projects to come online and strengthen American leadership in nuclear energy innovation. The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which recently passed out of committee, included the Act. Senator Capito recently joined Right Voices to discuss the legislation. 

Discussing the benefits of nuclear, Senator Capito explained: 

“I know to get baseload fuel and baseload capacity, which our capacity appetites are only going to grow for years, that we really need to integrate more nuclear technologies. And there’s been a lot of innovation in the nuclear field over the last several years with small modular reactors and other technologies, but we still have a ways to go to get the process streamlined, to make sure that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the capacity and the abilities to license these [reactors] in a timely manner because these are big investments.” 

Importantly, reducing barriers for advanced nuclear power—as the ADVANCE Act does—could have several economic benefits to West Virginia and the rest of coal country. A recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center found that 80% of the retiring coal plants evaluated, also known as brownfields, have the basic characteristics that are needed to power small modular reactors. Additionally, 77% of coal plant jobs could be transferred to nuclear power plants with no additional workforce training. 

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The ADVANCE Act would speed up the deployment of nuclear on brownfield sites by requiring Congress to reconsider licensing guidelines for nuclear at these locations. The bill would also advance breakthroughs by awarding innovation prizes to companies that create reactors that run on spent nuclear fuel and generate heat for nonelectric applications—like industrial activities. (For a more thorough breakdown of the ADVANCE Act, read The Breakthrough Institute’s analysis here.)

>>>READ: New Nuclear Power is Coming to Ohio

The ADVANCE Act is another instance of, as the Senator put it, “[Republicans] offering commonsense transitional solutions that are going to have the desired results.” When asked if the Senator has seen a shift within the GOP in terms of climate policy, Capito said:

“I do see a shift and I think it’s coming from different sources. Number one, I think the realization that our energy appetite is exponentially going to grow, regardless of if you’re driving an electric vehicle or not, our demands are just bigger and broader—the trends are there. So we have to meet that challenge. Second of all, I think we have to look at what the younger generation is thinking about. The argument has been made to them and for them that we have an issue here that we need to really seriously address in terms of resiliency and sustainability and being able to capture emissions that may be–not just contributing to a rise in the temperature and all that–but may be detrimental to our own physical health and environmental health…I think we’re smart as Republicans to be addressing these issues and having solutions because the solution that’s missing here is any kind of transitional solution. It’s either you’re all one way or the other.”

As it stands, the ADVANCE Act could very well become law as Congress deliberates the NDAA. Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s leadership in this effort could unleash America’s nuclear leadership and innovation—helping the U.S. and the world reduce emissions while providing reliable power to consumers. 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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