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Friday, May 7th, 2021

Report from former Energy Secretary lays out critical defense of US nuclear industry

Ernest Moniz

While some claim nuclear power is past date, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz published a report last week that claims the commercial nuclear energy industry remains vital to national defense and must be supported.

The report, “The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler,” stated a symbiosis between the commercial nuclear industry and the national defense. Loss of that supply chain, he claimed, would jeopardize nonproliferation efforts and harm U.S. defense capabilities, meaning that federal action must be taken to guarantee the industry’s survival.

“The critical role played by a robust nuclear power sector in both our energy and national security policy frameworks has received inadequate attention in the public debates on electricity, fuel diversity, and energy innovation,” the report said.

Since his role in government, Moniz has founded the think-tank known as Energy Futures Initiative, which published this latest report on his behalf. The report stated that there are essentially three imperatives for national policy: minimizing risk from climate change, providing fuel diversity and strengthening the point of unity between collective energy security and national security.

The report found that the United States still maintains the world’s largest fleet of nuclear reactors, but that domestic manufacturing capacity that supports them has been degrading since the 1970s. That degradation has led to certain disruptions of the nuclear supply chain, with such things as domestic-origin uranium enrichment capacity having since ceased to exist in the U.S. Such pressures on the chain are only getting worse with time, the report found.

“The picture is clear: A stabilized existing reactor fleet and new builds, perhaps incentivized by the favorable emissions characteristics of nuclear power, will be needed to rebuild a supply chain that will underpin both clean energy and national security success,” the report said.

The report also recommended a series of federal policy and regulatory actions to sustain the nuclear chain, including the provision of tax credits, revamps of federal and state policies to benefit nuclear energy, direction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee to emphasize nuclear energy’s role in national security and expansion of federal R&D for nuclear technology, among others.