House passes Weber’s energy research bill
By Ian White
A BIPARTISAN bill introduced by US house representative Randy Weber to boost private investment in the advancement of nuclear-energy technology passed the house unanimously on Monday.
Republican Weber, below, whose district includes Galveston County, introduced the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities bill as HR 4084 along with representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, and Lamar Smith, a Republican also from this state.
Johnson is the house science, space and technology committee’s ranking member and Smith is its chairman, while Weber is chairman of its energy subcommittee.
After the vote, the full committee issued a statement saying the representatives’ “bipartisan legislation directs the federal department of energy to prioritize federal research-and-development infrastructure that will enable the private sector to invest in advanced reactor technologies and provide a clear path forward to attract private investment for prototype development at DOE laboratories.”
If it becomes law, HR 4084 will enable private investors to form partnerships with national labs to develop new nuclear-reactor concepts. It will also clear DOE’s supercomputing division to accelerate the rate of national nuclear-energy research and development and require the department to produce a “transparent strategic” 10-year plan for prioritizing nuclear R&D programs.
The bill is supported by Burton Richter, who won the Nobel prize in physics in 1976, as well as several universities, including University Of Texas, Texas A&M, University Of Michigan, University Of Wisconsin and MIT.
Organizations supporting the measure include American Nuclear Society, American Security Project, US Nuclear Infrastructure Council, Bipartisan Policy Center, American Council For Capital Formation and Clear Path Action Fund.
And several businesses are also behind it, including General Atomics, TerraPower, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, UPower, TriAlpha, Transatomic Power and Advanced Reactor Concepts.
Weber said after the vote: “America must maintain our nuclear capabilities and continue to develop cutting-edge technology here at home.
“Without the direction provided in this bill, we’ll lose the ability to develop innovative nuclear technology and be left importing reactor designs from overseas.
“Today, we have the best nuclear engineers and manufacturing capacity in the world at home. We can’t put that expertise at risk. Even more importantly, this bill will maintain America’s capability to influence security and proliferation standards around the world as more developing nations look to nuclear energy to grow their economies.
“As a member of the [house] foreign affairs committee, I am constantly reminded of the need for American leadership in a dangerous world.”
And Smith said: “Advanced nuclear energy technology is the best opportunity to make reliable, emission-free electricity available throughout the modern and developing world. Nuclear power has been a proven source of safe and emission-free electricity for over half a century.
“Now, America’s strategic investments in advanced nuclear reactor technology can play a more meaningful role to reduce global emissions. Unfortunately, the ability to move innovative technology to the market has been stalled by government red tape.”