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Rohrabacher's Floor Speech Regarding Advanced Nuclear Reactors

Jul 14, 2011
Floor Speeches

Washington, Jul 14, 2011 - By: Dana Rohrabacher
Date: July 14, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of my amendment which would require that the amount provided for in title 17 of the Energy and Water development appropriations bill for loan guarantees for advanced nuclear energy facilities be equal to or exceed that for loan guarantees targeted for carbon capture and sequestration projects.

In laymen's terms, my amendment would specify that we cannot use more funds in this act for loan guarantees for carbon capture and sequestration projects than we make available for projects using nuclear technologies such as small modular gas-cooled reactors.

The purpose for this is simple. These new technologies hold significant promise of meeting our ever-increasing energy needs with safe, clean, reliable, cost-effective, proliferation-resistant noncarbon-producing American-built nuclear reactors.

As a member of the Science Committee, I, along with my colleagues, have studied this technology over the past 7 years. And let me note, the bureaucracy has studied this technology almost to death. Well, the time has
come for that study to be left behind. It's time for the study to be over, and it's time for us to act. There are commercial companies out there right now trying to bring these technologies to market, and this amendment will help make this a reality.

I would like to also note that the GAO and the committee have stated that there is a lack of transparency in this loan guarantee program. We cannot expect to perform proper oversight without knowing where and how these funds are being used, and it is critical that we become more specific in stating how we intend the funds to be used. And that's what this amendment would do.

It would also be important that we require the administration to report back to Congress with a full explanation of how these funds are being used. Thus I ask for support for this amendment.


Mr. ROHRABACHER. I believe that it is Congress' job to make decisions. We are the ones who should be actually designating exactly where money is going. I'm a senior member of the Science and Technology Committee. We have studied this issue directly, and this is my recommendation. And I think that what we're supposed to do here is make sure that rather than having money, saying we can just spend all we want in sequestration and accepting that alternative, that we must designate what we think is the best use and most efficient use of the taxpayer money. That sounds within the rules to me.


Mr. ROHRABACHER. I rise in support of my amendment which would require that none of the funds provided for in title 17 of the Energy and Water development appropriations bill be used for the purposes of providing loan guarantees for "carbon capture and sequestration projects.'' If you think that carbon capture and sequestration is an important goal--and I'm sure there are some people who believe it is. Let me just note that I do not believe that, and I think that having heard the debates that have been going on about this particular issue over the years, that there are large numbers of my colleagues who do not believe that as well.

Well, if you do not believe in carbon sequestration and capture as an important goal, then I would suggest that the best sequestration--if you really believe that we must sequester carbon and that that is an important goal, then let me suggest this, and that's what my amendment is all about: it's better to leave the oil and coal in the ground if that's what you really want to do is capture this carbon and sequester the carbon and capture it.

And I would suggest that the best way to do that is by promoting new nuclear technologies such as the new, inherently safe, small, modular nuclear reactors, especially those that do not use water as a coolant. We can provide all the clean, safe electricity that we need. And I would hope that any funds that the Secretary might have, in terms of his opinion, determined to use in carbon capture and sequestration, instead that the Secretary will use that limited amount of money that he has available to him on a positive program that will permit us an alternative to oil and gas. I personally, however, do not believe that oil and gas necessarily and the capture of carbon sequestration is an important goal; but if you do, you should be supporting--instead of basically using that as an expensive tool that will hurt the economy, we should be using the funds that are available instead to promote this positive alternative of nuclear energy, especially the high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman, let me just suggest that, again, we should be taking responsibility, especially when we see something as important to the American people as the issue of energy, especially clean energy, and how we are going to make sure that it is supplied to the people of the United States.

Specifically designating that these funds won't be used for sequestration and carbon capture, I mean, that seems to me that is what we should do. We should determine whether or not we believe this is an appropriate use of government funds. I suggest that it is not, especially when we have alternatives that are available to us, like these new technologies in the nuclear field, that can give us what we need in terms of not producing carbon and making sure that you don't even need sequestration then. If you have those alternatives, then we shouldn't be spending the money on this other approach, on the carbon capture and sequestration approach. That makes sense to me.

We need, as Members of Congress, to set these type of parameters on the spending of our limited dollars in a way that will have the most positive impact, and the carbon capture and sequestration concept is not the best way to spend our money when we have these other alternatives.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of my amendment, which would support advanced nuclear reactors, particularly those reactors that do not use a light water coolant, which happens to be technology used for decades and seems to be what certain members of the business world are trying to foist off on the American people. No, it is time to upgrade, to update, and innovate.

Since I understand that a point of order has been raised against this amendment, I intend to withdraw it. But before I do so, I would like to make some remarks as to why it is important for these new reactors to come forward.

As I stated earlier, these new technologies, such as the high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors hold significant promise of meeting our ever-increasing energy needs with safe, clean, reliable, cost-effective, noncarbon-producing, proliferation-resistant, American-built nuclear power plants. A number of our commercial companies out there right now are ready to bring forth this cutting-edge nuclear technology and put it on the market and create new, high-tech private sector jobs for the American people. Their success should be our goal.

There is some mention of these technologies in the committee report. I am very grateful for that, but I would like to draw attention to why these are so vitally important for our country.

First of all, the small modular nuclear reactors, especially those that do not rely on decades-old light water coolant systems, exemplify the next wave of nuclear power, and we should pursue it far more aggressively than we are today. Specifically, we should be more aggressively pursuing the next generation nuclear plant and make the best use of the technologies that have been developed which include inherently safe reactors that don't require extraneous engineered safety devices to protect the public. We have a new level of safety that is almost unimaginable in these new reactors. We should understand that we need the high fuel burn-up rates that will greatly reduce the proliferation concerns. So we have reactors now that will be available that will not leave the residue and the leftover material that can be turned into nuclear weapons.

We also have reactors that are modular, scalable, and can be delivered on the back of a truck. This would make them far more economical and far more feasible for various communities throughout the world. Read that, we can manufacture these somewhere in America and transport them around the country or around the planet.

The Department of Energy should encourage and partner with industry to build working reactor prototypes using these technologies to provide the data required for commercial licensing.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should encourage applications from private companies for the purpose of building working commercial reactors incorporating these new technologies. The NRC should also consider these applications immediately upon receiving them and expedite the processing.

Ideally, the NRC should be able to complete the process within 2 years of the receipt of the initial application. That should be more than a goal. That should be a commitment.

I hope I've made it clear how vital these technologies are to our energy future. We are either going to lead the world in the nuclear arena or we are going to be left behind as a country.

Now, I understand that there is a technical problem with this amendment, but I would like to make sure that my colleagues understand the significance of this new technology.

Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.