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May 12, 2011

Development and Deployment of New Nuclear Reactor Technologies

[Page: H3164]  GPO's PDF 

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Altmire) for 5 minutes.

Mr. ALTMIRE. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of legislation I introduced to encourage the development of a vital component to the next generation of nuclear reactors that will provide clean, domestic energy solutions for all Americans.

The Department of Energy initiated the Nuclear Power 2010 Program in February 2002 as a joint public-private program to develop advanced reactor technologies and encourage the private sector to build new nuclear power plants in the United States. My legislation, the Nuclear Power 2021 Act, applies the Nuclear Power 2010 model to small modular reactors. Under the bill, the Department of Energy would be able to enter into public-private partnerships to design and license two small modular reactors by the year 2021.

As my colleagues may know, today's traditional larger reactors range from 1,000 to 1,700 megawatts and cost between $5 billion and $10 billion to construct. In contrast, small modular reactors generate 10 to 300 megawatts and cost about $750 million to construct. These small reactors offer several advantages to large reactors in certain situations, including shorter construction times, increased safety controls, and electricity generation. While large reactors are built on a future generation site, a process that can take up to 5 years, smaller reactors can be manufactured in modular pieces in factories and transported by rail or truck, cutting construction times in half. Small reactors can also be completely manufactured and fueled in a factory. They can be sealed and shipped to the site for power generation, and after use, they can be shipped back to the factory for defueling, minimizing the potential spread of nuclear material.

Additionally, small modular reactors produce a small nuclear reaction which generates less heat, making them easier to shut down in the event of a malfunction. Another advantage of small modular reactors is that, unlike large reactors, they can generate power in any location. While large reactors require millions of gallons of water per day for cooling and must be located near large water sources, small reactors can be water-cooled or air-cooled. This technology could open up new parts of the country to nuclear development, such as the arid West and locations that cannot support larger capacity generation, such as isolated rural areas or regions with smaller grids.

Unfortunately, development and deployment of new nuclear reactor technologies can currently take upwards of two decades. Time and resources are limited for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop the institutional capacity to license new reactor designs, and traditional public-private partnerships are often insufficient to mitigate the business risk of bringing small modular reactors to market. This is why I believe this legislation is crucial for developing this all-American technology that could help us lead the world in electricity innovation and generation. I encourage my colleagues to join me in making America more energy independent, creating good-paying American jobs, and working toward the future of clean energy generation by cosponsoring the Nuclear Power 2021 Act.

(House of Representatives - May 11, 2011)

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