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Opinion Pieces by Rob

Embracing the 21st-century atomic energy age

As the United States grapples with the challenges of energy production, economic growth, and national security, the time has come to unleash the true potential of nuclear energy. Increased zero-carbon emission nuclear power is necessary for an “all of the above” domestic energy solution to the 21st century’s environmental and energy challenges. 

Virginia, a longtime leader in nuclear technology, is poised to lead this renaissance of safe, reliable nuclear power.

While celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dominion’s Surry Nuclear Power Station last month, Gov. Glenn Youngkin renewed his challenge for Virginia to construct the nation’s first commercial, next-generation small modular reactor. This is far from an impossible task. The Commonwealth is already home to nuclear reactor manufacturer BWXT, which has built commercial and naval nuclear reactors and components, including those powering the Navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers, since the 1950s.  

Yet despite the exemplary safety record of the U.S. civilian and naval nuclear reactor programs over the past 60 years, our country is not experiencing the atomic renaissance we should be witnessing. To address this shortfall, I introduced the 21st Century American Atomic Energy Age Act, which will strengthen American energy production and dominance.

This comprehensive piece of legislation encompasses essential measures, including modernizing regulations, promoting innovation, and prioritizing domestic control over the nuclear supply chain, that will revitalize the nuclear energy sector in the United States. It provides a significant opportunity to bolster our nation's economic prosperity and enhance our security.

Nuclear reactors, both civilian and U.S. naval, have an exceptional safety record and are reliable sources of energy. This is due to strict regulations and safety protocols overseen by organizations such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. The U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered ships and submarines further validate the effectiveness of these safety measures and the expertise of the nuclear industry.

A key aspect of the 21st Century American Atomic Energy Age Act is its focus on modernizing the NRC. This modernization process is designed to expedite the development and approval of advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, which offer tremendous potential for energy resilience.

In addition to promoting innovation and environmental sustainability, this legislation also takes critical steps to bolster national security. Notably, it prohibits the import of Russian nuclear fuel, a strategic move aimed at safeguarding the United States’ energy independence. By reducing reliance on hostile nations for our energy supply, we can strengthen our national security and maintain control over the nuclear supply chain.

The 21st Century American Atomic Energy Age Act represents a vital step forward in advancing nuclear energy. It is time for Republicans and Democrats alike to prioritize our economic prosperity and national security by building on the legacy of safety, supporting the modernization of our regulatory framework, increasing domestic energy production, and embracing technological advancements. By doing so, we can unleash the full potential of nuclear power and pave the way for a prosperous, secure, and energy-independent future.

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