Renewing America’s commitment to nuclear energy

Today, nuclear energy produces 20 percent of America’s electricity, but it’s increasingly sidelined in our domestic energy portfolio.

Our domestic plants are aging rapidly. Five have closed in recent years. At the start of this year, four new reactors were under construction at two plants: two in South Carolina and two in Georgia. The South Carolina project has since come to a halt because of mounting delays and regulatory hurdles.

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To realize our full energy potential, we need a renewed commitment to domestic nuclear energy. It’s a win for our economy because it will create jobs and capital. On top of that, it’s an emission-free energy source that has bipartisan support. Most importantly, it’s a matter of national security. While America has faltered in its commitment to nuclear, Russia and China have been on the move.

Two years ago, Reuters reported that Rosatom – a state-owned Russian nuclear energy export agency – had 29 reactors under construction around the globe. Russia collected billions in nuclear export revenues in 2015, and last year it exported $133 billion worth of nuclear goods and services.

China’s rise is equally, if not more, concerning.

This year alone, China has announced nuclear deals with multiple African nations. Chinese firms are building reactors in Pakistan and Great Britain. China is currently building 20 reactors at an average of one new reactor every five months. That’s why U.S. Energy Information Administration has predicted China will surpass America as the world’s largest nuclear energy producer in just 15 years.

Experts and leaders on both sides of the aisle agree we cannot allow that to happen.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge recently wrote, “When other nations buy Russian and Chinese nuclear exports – as they increasingly do – Moscow and Beijing, not Washington, set the standards.”

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has said, “Without a strong commercial presence in new nuclear markets, America’s ability to influence nonproliferation policies and nuclear safety behaviors worldwide is bound to diminish.”

Former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizStop wasting tax dollars on failing nuclear projects Trump vows hard line with Iran, setting stage to decertify deal Renewing America’s commitment to nuclear energy MORE published a study this year calling nuclear a “key national security enabler.”

Finally, President Donald J. Trump said in June that, “we will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector.” President Trump also ordered a full review of our domestic nuclear energy policies, and Secretary of Energy Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryPerry pictured with falcon, sword during trek to Saudi Arabia Trump promised ‘best people’ would run government — they upended it US oil and gas boom will actually help spur energy revolution MORE recently announced a conditional loan guarantee of up to $3.7 billion for the completion of Plant Vogtle in Georgia.

We’ve got to turn this bipartisan consensus into meaningful action so that the United States can continue to be the world’s leader in nuclear energy.

The average age of our domestic plants today is 37 years. We need to bring our nuclear capabilities into the 21st Century, by bringing these two outstanding nuclear plants in Georgia online and then building other nuclear power plants.

We need to get the regulators who have caused years of delays out of the way.

We need to send a signal to the rest of the world that nuclear energy is going to continue to be a major part of our domestic energy production. 

We cannot expect or trust geopolitical rivals to use their nuclear leverage in a stabilizing way. With Russia and China’s nuclear influence on the rise – not to mention the illicit activities of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea – it’s critical that we do more to invest in our own nuclear energy capabilities now.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress.