The slow decline of the U.S. nuclear energy industry is creating national security vulnerabilities that demand new federal action, according to the first report from a nonprofit group created by former Energy secretary Ernest Moniz.
The new Energy Futures Initiative analysis looks at how a supply chain weakened by the lack of new plants and the upcoming retirements of some existing commercial reactors can affect security.
Here's a few takeaways...
Russia fills the void: One concern is the failure to reach bilateral agreements with other countries, especially Middle East powers, for use of U.S. nuclear technology and services. Russia has been more successful (see the chart above).
Naval needs: The U.S. naval's nuclear-propulsion fleet relies on a "robust" domestic supply chain. In particular, the Navy will eventually need more highly enriched uranium.
- "Because of the national security use and the sensitivity of HEU production, the entire supply chain from uranium feed to the enrichment technology must be U.S. origin. There is currently no such domestic capability in the supply chain," the report states.
Other problems: The report identifies other nuclear security concerns, noting the security imperative of a domestic supply chain for key elements of nuclear weapons stockpile maintenance; and also notes concern that the U.S. will not produce enough nuclear engineers.
How to fix it: The report makes over a half-dozen recommendations for federal policymakers to help bolster the domestic industry, such as extending tax credits and availability of the DOE's loan guarantee program and directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to "place greater emphasis on the national security importance of nuclear power and its associated supply chain."