Panel approves nuclear energy research bill

Panel approves nuclear energy research bill
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A House committee approved a bipartisan bill Tuesday promoting research and development funding for nuclear energy in the United States.

The bill directs the Department of Energy to prioritize nuclear energy research that utilizes private sector funding. 

It would allow private firms to partner with federally-run national labs to research nuclear reactor technologies and allow Energy Department researchers to use the national labs' supercomputers in their nuclear energy studies. 

The legislation also calls for the Energy Department to complete a research reactor within the next ten years.

The Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the bill on a unanimous voice vote on Tuesday. The legislation is co-sponsored by Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), ranking member Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonMore than 94 percent of federal agencies on schedule with Kaspersky purge House panel amends bill to audit agencies on adoption of cyber framework House votes to restrict EPA’s use of science MORE (D-Texas) and Rep. Randy WeberRandy WeberDemocrats dig for Russian connection and uncover environmentalists Lobbying World GOP worries as state Dems outperform in special elections MORE (R-Texas).

Both sides lauded the bill — and the chance to expand nuclear power in the United States.

“Strategic investments in advanced nuclear reactor technology should play a much more meaningful role in reducing global emissions,” Smith said at Tuesday’s hearing.

“However, our ability to move from R and D to market deployment has been hampered by government red tape. The U.S. has not lived up to its potential when it comes to nuclear energy."

Johnson, while co-sponsoring the bill, said she would like to see it recommend funding levels for the DOE’s nuclear energy research program. 

“Implementing the provisions in this bill will help accelerate the development of advanced nuclear energy technologies that are safer, less expensive, more efficient, and produce less waste than the current generation of nuclear reactors,” she said.

“While I do recognize the difficulty of authoring funding levels these days, I think it is an important function of our committee. As we move this bill forward, I hope it is something we can revisit.”