Energy News Today

Trump Administration Pivots To Nuclear Energy, Finds Lever Against China, Russia

Expanding U.S. commercial nuclear power abroad could become the Trump administration’s strongest lever against Chinese hegemony and Russian expansion in the global market.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which is leading the national initiative, is on an aggressive timeline—five to seven years—to bring new advanced nuclear reactors for electric power to the international market.

A senior Energy Department official told Forbes it’s a matter of national security.

China and Russia’s aggressive plans to expand into the global nuclear energy sector pose a “significant risk” to “the U.S. economy, energy security, foreign policy, and national security, as well as that of allies,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, DOE’s Assistant Secretary in its Office of Nuclear Energy. “The U.S. is losing its competitive global position as the world leader in nuclear energy to state-owned enterprises of Russia and China that underbid Western competitors.”

Long before Covid-19 and a metastasizing anti-China sentiment surrounding that, President Trump was talking about China, its celebrated Belt and Road Initiative, and the threat it poses to U.S. national security. He initiated a number of protective measures.

But a year ago, President Trump asked his Energy Secretary, Dan Brouillette, to assemble a nuclear energy working group to find ways to expand the U.S. nuclear energy industry in an effort to compete globally.

This would be the fulcrum of the diplomatic lever.

This May, DOE released Restoring America’s Competitive Nuclear Energy Advantage, a blueprint to transform a U.S. nuclear industry notorious for massive facilities, long construction timelines, cost overruns and a sour public opinion.

Despite the pandemic, riots and unrest across the country, Brouillette and Baranwal, appear to be making great progress by most measures.

Baranwal has launched the $230 million Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) currently calling on the U.S. private sector to apply to demonstrate they can construct smaller, more efficient, more affordable advanced reactors that can be commercially available within five to seven years. Applications are due August 12.

Baranwal said “she’s encouraged, pleasantly surprised” at the level of interest and caliber of the applicants, many of which are start-ups.

The assistant secretary, who has a doctorate in materials science and engineering, said the core of the technology being developed is not new. What DOE is doing is setting an aggressive timeline to build on existing basic technology that was explored decades ago.

Washington policymakers and thought leaders are…

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2020-08-07 12:00:00

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