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Nuclear industry facing crisis that Trump must address, think tank says

The nation’s nuclear energy industry is facing a crisis that the Trump administration must immediately address as a core part of its “energy dominance” agenda, a Washington think tank said Thursday.

The decline of the nuclear power industry is “an important policy problem” that is not receiving the attention it deserves, the Atlantic Council said in a new report.

“Nuclear power should be elevated in the Trump administration’s U.S. National Security Strategy, including its ‘energy dominance,’ defense-industry capacity development, and international partnership efforts with allies,” the report stated.

The issue is underscored by the aggressive advancements in nuclear power made by Russia and China, which threatens U.S. leadership on nuclear and is a matter of national and environmental security.

Nuclear energy should be designated an “important strategic sector” by the government, in which “global leadership and engagement” should be considered “vital to U.S national security and foreign-policy interests.”

For those reasons, the Trump administration should raise the importance of nuclear energy as part of its agenda, it said.

The report says a policy discussion is “urgently needed” and that the administration should bring together industry, policymakers, researchers, and other key groups to engage in a “constructive dialogue.”

The president’s “energy dominance” agenda emphasizes energy technology exports, but the emphasis has generally been on natural gas and coal exports.

“Although there is clearly a strong fossil-fuels orientation behind the ‘energy dominance’ theme, it is important to consider whether, and how, nuclear power fits into this strategy, and the implications of developments in the United States for the U.S. competitive position vis-a-vis China and Russia,” the report reads.

The administration’s interest in promoting nuclear power globally has been played up recently in high-level talks between the administration and Saudi Arabia to secure an agreement to build power plants in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Democrats have expressed concerns about nuclear weapons in the region that the deal could make a reality, especially given Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s statements that the kingdom would pursue a weapon if Iran were allowed to.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that if the U.S. does not help the Saudis on nuclear power, the Russians or the Chinese would.

The Atlantic Council report points out Russia is “actively” pursuing nuclear energy deals in the Mideast “to advance their position in the region.”

With its established ties building reactors in Iran, Russia is working to finalize a preliminary agreement with Egypt to construct four nuclear units on the Mediterranean coast.

“Just days after President Trump’s controversial Dec. 6, 2017, announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin visited Egypt and signed the final agreement for the $25 billion, 4800-MW nuclear-power project,” the report states.

Domestically, the report pointed out, the administration’s attempts to address nuclear power plants’ economic woes have been met with obstacles, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s rejection of Perry’s plan to provide nuclear plants with market incentives.

FERC instead is examining reliability and resilience in specific markets. The commission is taking comments on the responses it received from the grid operators it regulates on the state of the grid.

Source: Washington Examiner