With former Vice President Joe Biden now the President-elect of the USA, enthusiasm on the left is tempered by the probability that Republicans will maintain the Senate. Local weather coverage is one of some key areas during which Democrats hope to implement sweeping change by introducing federal insurance policies to chop carbon emissions aggressively and make investments considerably in infrastructure and applied sciences to hurry decarbonization. Nevertheless, whereas the complete scope of Democratic insurance policies will not be realized by the following Congress, laws that encourages the speedy deployment of nuclear power know-how represents an space the place Democrats and Republicans can proceed to work collectively—as they’ve over the past 4 years—on advancing applied sciences with the potential to decarbonize energy methods at residence and overseas.
Though the USA formally withdrew from the Paris Settlement on November 4th, Biden has committed to rejoining the accord on the primary day of his presidency, an motion that he can accomplish with a stroke of the pen and with out congressional approval. Underneath the Paris Settlement, the United States has pledged to scale back carbon emissions by 26 p.c over 2005 ranges, by 2025, however as of in the present day, the USA is barely on monitor to scale back emissions by 17 p.c inside that very same timeframe. Federal coverage shall be essential to creating up the hole and placing the USA on a sooner path to decarbonization; nonetheless, many insurance policies that would help decarbonization and require congressional approval (resembling putting a worth on carbon or renewing funding tax credit for renewable power sources) might not make progress beneath a Republican-led Senate. Nevertheless, nuclear power—a low-carbon supply of dependable energy—has champions on each side of the aisle and will obtain consideration from a Democratic administration trying to go local weather laws.
With bipartisan assist, Congress handed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), which was signed into legislation in 2018. Congress handed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) in December 2018, and it was signed into legislation in 2019. NEICA helps set up public-private partnerships by way of the US Division of Vitality’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program to be able to velocity the event of the following era of nuclear reactors. Though superior reactors are unlikely to be commercialized by 2025, their success could make a distinction for US and international local weather targets inside the subsequent decade. Equally, NEIMA—which modernizes the regulatory course of for nuclear reactors—was launched by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and co-sponsored by ten Republican and eight Democratic senators.
Sturdy bipartisan congressional assist for nuclear reactors—each the prevailing fleet and in addition the following era of superior reactors—is in keeping with the emphasis in Biden’s climate and energy plans on the significance of the home nuclear fleet as a supply of low-carbon power in addition to the following era of nuclear power applied sciences. The present fleet—which accounts for 20 percent of total US electricity generation and greater than half of low-carbon electrical energy era in the USA—is integral to limiting carbon emissions, whereas commercializing and exporting superior nuclear reactors is vital for US nationwide safety and international safety and safeguards. As a statesman and nationwide safety skilled, Biden ought to proceed to assist initiatives that can be certain that the USA can commercialize and export the following era of nuclear applied sciences.
There are nonetheless extra alternatives for bipartisan cooperation on nuclear power coverage. In July, the Nuclear Vitality Management Act (NELA) was passed in the Senate as an modification to the Nationwide Protection Authorization Act for Fiscal 12 months 2021 with bipartisan assist, however it was not included within the Home model of the invoice. Each chambers must agree on a closing model of NELA earlier than the brand new president can signal it into legislation. Assist for NELA, which focuses on advanced reactor demonstration and developing advanced reactor fuel, would ship a robust sign from the Biden Administration. This additionally holds true for the Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act (NERDA), which was launched within the Home by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA-17) earlier this 12 months.
The Biden Administration might want to determine power coverage areas that advance its local weather coverage objectives and which might be palatable on each side of the aisle. Since congressional Republicans and Democrats have proven their assist for a strong home reactor fleet and for a powerful civil nuclear export program, nuclear power presents a possibility for Biden to go bipartisan laws whereas reaching his local weather objectives.
Jennifer T. Gordon is the managing editor and senior fellow for nuclear power at that Atlantic Council International Vitality Middle.
Learn extra from this creator
Mon, Sep 14, 2020
The US Division of Protection (DOD) has the potential to play a big position bringing superior reactor know-how to demonstration and, finally, commercialization. Potential US navy functions of superior reactors—particularly micro nuclear reactors (MNRs)—embrace deployment to distant bases which might be difficult to produce with gasoline; energy methods for directed-energy weapons; and nuclear power methods for area flight and off-world bases. This difficulty transient explores the challenges and alternatives inherent in DOD’s procurement of MNRs.
In-Depth Analysis & Experiences
Thu, Jan 9, 2020
The US and its allies in civil nuclear cooperation have struggled lately to compete in opposition to state-owned nuclear enterprise exports. Since nuclear power agreements set up many years’ lengthy relationships between the seller and buying international locations, and the USA and its allies want to export their excessive security and nonproliferation requirements together with applied sciences, it’s vital that the USA regains its place of world management on nuclear power exports. As Russia and China search out third-party international locations with demand for nuclear power, can the USA and its allies decide learn how to cooperate on co-financing agreements and change into better than the sum of their elements?
Jennifer T. Gordon
Subscribe to DirectCurrent
Join the International Vitality Middle publication to remain updated on this system’s work.