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Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining

Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining
© Bonnie Cash

Legislation from Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoJudge halts Biden pause on new public lands oil leasing GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' Biden land management pick faces GOP scrutiny over decades-old tree spiking case MORE (R-Wyo.) would cement a number of Trump administration recommendations to bolster nuclear energy, and, in turn, uranium mining.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman's legislation comes just days after an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement made in uranium-rich Wyoming that is expected to ease mining restrictions on the substance.

The legislation is designed to spur the development of advanced nuclear reactors, which though not yet commercially viable, are expected to be smaller and more scalable as well as safer.

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But nuclear power, though carbon free, is controversial among environmentalists both because of the risks tied to security and nuclear waste, as well as the cost.

Both Ohio and New York have spent millions to keep nuclear plants open as they become less commercially viable as they compete against renewables and natural gas.

Barrasso’s American Nuclear Infrastructure Act “authorizes a targeted credit program to preserve nuclear plants at risk of prematurely shutting down,” according to a release.

It also takes a policy recommendation straight from an April report from the Nuclear Fuels Working Group by establishing a national uranium reserve, creating a steady market for a struggling domestic industry.

Uranium, a key mineral for nuclear fuel, has seen its value largely fall over the last decade.

The Trump administration has taken numerous moves to bolster uranium mining in the U.S., something critics say is unnecessary as the U.S. imports most of its uranium from allies like Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan. 

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But the Trump administration argues the measures are needed to protect America's international standing and fend off challenges from Russia and China, which maintain global influence by providing nuclear technology to other countries.

Barrasso’s legislation echos that sentiment, allowing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny imports of Russian and Chinese nuclear fuel.

"We look forward to hearing from stakeholders on this draft and look forward to working with the chairman on ways we can support zero-emitting technologies like advanced nuclear without compromising on safety," a spokesman for Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees MORE (D-Del.), ranking member of the committee, said by email.