Budd leads congressional effort on nuclear energy resolution

August 1, 2023

U.S. Sen. Ted Budd giving his maiden speech on the Senate floor, May 17, 2023. Credit - Budd's Twitter account.

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  • "With this kind of support at the federal level, it should be a wake-up call for regulatory reform to speed up the permitting process so we can build more nuclear," said SPN Energy Fellow, Amy Cooke.

North Carolina’s Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, is leading a bipartisan coalition of 15 senators who want the U.S. Senate to embrace nuclear energy as a reliable, clean answer to a secure power grid.

The fifteen lawmakers; six Democrats, eight Republicans, and Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, introduced a resolution this week declaring that “The Senate is committed to embracing and promoting nuclear power as a clean baseload energy source necessary to achieve a reliable, secure, and diversified electric grid.”

“Investing in safe and clean nuclear energy is a key step to ensure America becomes energy dominant and offers a unique opportunity to jump start American advanced manufacturing, particularly in North Carolina,” said Budd. “I’m glad to work with Senator Coons on a bipartisan expression of this goal. I will continue to support an all-of-the-above energy strategy to lower prices for gas and electricity for working North Carolina families while creating rewarding, well-paying jobs in this growing industry.”

North Carolina’s senior senator, Thom Tillis, is among the Republican signers.

“Nuclear energy is the most efficient renewable energy source available, and the United States has an opportunity to become a world leader in the renewed production of nuclear power production,” said TIllis. “I am proud to co-sponsor this resolution in support of this important energy source and ensure the U.S. can produce clean, reliable, and diversified energy production.”

The other senators on board include Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. James Risch (R-ID), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).

“I’m not surprised to see Sen. Budd leading on this issue,” said Amy Cooke, former John Locke Foundation CEO and current Energy Fellow for State Policy Network. “With its significant investment in nuclear, North Carolina has been on the front lines of clean energy for decades. When North Carolina passed HB 951 in 2021, we were the first state in decades to allow for new nuclear power generation. We understand the necessity of clean, reliable, dispatchable, baseload power. We’re a role model for the rest of the nation.”

In 2022, North Carolina’s Utilities Commission proposed a “Carbon Plan” for the future of the state’s electrical grid, to meet Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order to reduce the state’s carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 70 percent around 2030, and net zero by 2050. The plan includes mandating Duke Energy to close all coal-fired plants by 2035, eliminating one-fourth of the state’s energy supply. It also requires Duke to extend the licenses for its existing nuclear fleet, and authorizes Duke to incur project development costs associated with new nuclear generation.

House Bill 951, passed by the legislature and signed into law in 2021 requires that any compliance plan approved by the NCUC be based on a least cost, most reliable architecture for the state’s power grid.

A bill currently in the House Rules Committee would relabel “renewable energy resources” as “clean energy resources” in the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and add nuclear fission and fusion into the definition of clean energy. If approved by the state legislature, SB678 would make nuclear energy a viable option toward replacing coal-fired power plants with new cleaner sources.

Mcguire Nuclear Plant. Source: Duke Energy

“A future of energy dominance must include clean, safe, reliable nuclear energy,” said Cooke. “With this kind of support at the federal level, it should be a wake-up call for regulatory reform to speed up the permitting process so we can build more nuclear. Hopefully, states currently hostile to nuclear will now realize that nuclear power must be included in their generation portfolio if they want lower emissions.”