Viewpoint: You can’t have true energy independence without nuclear

24 August 2020

In order to secure the economic and security benefits of a true 'all-of-the-above' energy agenda, the United States must be at the forefront of nuclear innovation, writes Dan Brouillette. The following is the US secretary of energy's 21 August blog for the Department of Energy (DOE).

Dan Brouillette, US secretary of energy (Image: DOE)

"This is crucial not only for ensuring clean, reliable, and affordable power to the American people, but for our national defense strategy as well. The great State of Pennsylvania plays a vital role in our energy independence strategy for several reasons, and its uniqueness in our national landscape deserves special attention.

Under the previous Administration, the USA squandered its potential to produce its own nuclear fuel, thereby threatening our national interest and national security. More alarmingly, America has been on a decades-long descent from its competitive global position as the world leader in nuclear energy and technology, losing ground to state-owned enterprises, including those in Russia, China, and other competitor nations that are aggressively moving to surpass the United States.

Under the Trump Administration, we are putting nuclear energy back at the forefront. We are pursuing every avenue possible to ensure reliable production of this vital energy resource. Nuclear energy is necessary for true energy independence.

In 2019, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Memorandum, forming the Nuclear Fuel Working Group. The Working Group comprises government agencies and tasked with crafting a plan for re-asserting US nuclear energy dominance.

In response to those efforts, in April 2020, the DOE announced the Strategy to Restore American Nuclear Energy Leadership, a comprehensive plan mapping out our recommendations for how the US can regain its competitive advantage in nuclear energy. The strategy calls for reviving capabilities in the uranium mining, milling, conversion, and enrichment industries, restoring and maintaining US technology supremacy, and driving US exports, while assuring consistency with US non-proliferation objectives and strengthening national security.

Through our Strategy to Restore American Nuclear Energy Leadership we will:

  • Take immediate and bold action to strengthen the uranium mining and conversion industries.and restore the viability of the entire front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle.
  • Utilize American technological innovation and advanced nuclear research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) investments to consolidate technical advances and accelerate the regaining of American leadership in the next generation of nuclear technologies.
  • Ensure that there will be a healthy and growing nuclear energy sector to which uranium miners, fuel cycle providers, and reactor vendors can sell their products and services.
  • Take a whole-of-government approach to supporting the US nuclear industry in exporting nuclear technology in competition with state-owned enterprises.

‚Äč[I] recently visited The Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to applaud the plant on helping us accomplish those goals.

Even as we are strengthening our energy security through nuclear power, we are also strengthening our national security through modern, flexible, and resilient nuclear capabilities. To that extent, DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration's core mission is to ensure the US maintains a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear stockpile through the application of unparalleled science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing.

Nuclear power can provide reliable energy to Americans and is a crucial part of our all-of-the-above strategy. In the face of a manmade attack or natural disaster, it is vital that we are not reliant upon just one form of energy. Pennsylvania helps ensure America’s energy security thanks not only to its richness in coal, natural gas, and other resources, but also its willingness to pursue nuclear energy at sites like Susquehanna Steam Electric Station."

Dan Brouillette serves as the 15th secretary of the US Department of Energy.