WASHINGTON (Feb. 24, 2015) – Federal research policy should be reoriented to recognize the U.S. nuclear sector as a national asset that contributes to domestic economic, energy security and environmental goals, according to a paper released by the R Street Institute today.

In “The Role of U.S. Research and Development Policy in Nuclear Power,” R Street Senior Fellow George David Banks writes that nuclear power is critical to U.S. national interests because of its inherent link to the nonproliferation agenda and importance to the U.S. Navy, including its supply chain and recruitment efforts.Banks lays out several steps federal and state governments should take to protect the existing nuclear fleet, including taking a technology-neutral approach to emissions reductions.“Nuclear power should be treated the same as other non-emitting sources,” wrote Banks. “Regulators and grid operators should pursue initiatives that provide adequate compensation for the positive attributes of nuclear power.”

“Moreover,” Banks wrote, “as long as government favors renewables over nuclear, the private sector will be less willing to invest in the future of nuclear power.”

Banks also highlights the importance of making nuclear power vastly more efficient, to improve its competitiveness with shale gas and subsidized generation. To achieve this, the United States must shift more research dollars away from areas where the private sector is capable of investment and toward advanced nuclear concepts and new materials, which will produce greater revenue streams and significantly reduced waste.

As part of the research effort, Washington should explore reforms to current cost-share requirements for private sector R&D, which in some cases subsidizes what industry would do anyway.

“The federal government should focus on what industry cannot do and will not do it on its own – generally high-risk, high-reward research,” he wrote.

To further research efforts, Banks notes the importance of U.S. investment in a new fast test reactor that would be versatile and capable of testing a number of different concepts, a capability that would help win broader support across the nuclear energy community.

The full report can be found here:

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