How Third Way Reinvented American Nuclear Energy Policy
Despite the Obama Administration’s efforts to address it, by 2014 the climate crisis was so dire that it was clear we would need to do more than just expand renewables like wind and solar. Third Way set out to find new solutions. Through our network of investors, academics, and energy experts, we heard murmurs of progress on a new energy source that would be safe, affordable, and—most importantly—zero emissions: advanced nuclear technology.
We knew that few of the huge, old-style reactors would be built in the United States. So we were intrigued to hear that American companies were pursuing new technologies. We started putting them on a map, expecting to find a small handful.
We found 48. When we looked again in 2018, there were 75.
We discovered that the Department of Energy was blind to this burgeoning new industry, so we set up a meeting with some agency senior staff. Midway through, Secretary Ernest Moniz dropped by to say hello. He sat down and joined us for real when he got a look at our map and we told him that private sector investors had already sunk several billion dollars into dozens of advanced nuclear startups.
Building off that meeting, we launched an advocacy campaign to get the word out about advanced nuclear, which resulted in the DOE and Obama Administration becoming some of the sector’s strongest champions. At our recommendation, the DOE launched a new program that matches advanced nuclear entrepreneurs with the intellectual power of the national labs. Soon after, we helped plan and publicize the first-ever White House conference on advanced nuclear technology, where Third Way President Jon Cowan was the only speaker from outside the administration.
We also brought a bipartisan group of powerful senators on board, including Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chair of the Energy Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (DRI), one of the leading climate advocates in Congress. We helped write and move several different advanced nuclear proposals that are now making their way through Congress, as well as one that has already been passed into law. And we have held three annual standing-room-only Advanced Nuclear Summits to drive change forward.
Our sustained efforts have taken advanced nuclear energy from obscurity to the spotlight. Because of our work, Congress, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the DOE are expected to enact over the next decade a series of sweeping reforms to make America the leader in advanced nuclear technology.
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