UCS Delivers Letter to Congress Calling for Rejection of Dangerous Nuclear Energy Provisions

Published Apr 9, 2024

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The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) delivered a letter to U.S. Congressional leaders outlining serious health, safety, and environmental concerns with the nuclear energy legislation—H.R.6544—passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in February.

Among UCS’ top concerns is the potential for the legislation to undermine the independence of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the body charged with protecting public health, worker safety, and the environment as it relates to civilian nuclear power. According to Dr. Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at UCS and a lead signer of the letter, the provisions put forth in the bill could violate the 1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety obligation for the United States to ensure regulatory functions are effectively separated from promotional ones.

“The need to rapidly reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize the economy will require a range of different tools,” Dr. Lyman said in the letter sent on behalf of UCS’ half a million supporters and network of over 22,000 scientists. “Nuclear power could play a role in a low-carbon energy future, but only if it meets the highest standards of safety and security, both for the aging operating fleet and for new plants and fuel cycle facilities. Strong nuclear safety regulations are essential for achieving this goal.”

The letter, addressed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer and U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, outlines the following recommendations as priorities in a compromise bill:

  • Reject language that undermines the NRC’s independence and core mission.
  • Reject attempts to micromanage how the NRC conducts its safety and security oversight.
  • Reject foreign ownership, control or domination of domestic nuclear facilities.

UCS has served as a nuclear power safety and security watchdog for over fifty years. As a neither pro- nor anti-nuclear power organization, the letter to congressional leaders is intended to remind policymakers of the importance of keeping radiological safety, infrastructure security, environmental impacts, waste disposal, and weapons proliferation top of mind when considering policies to advance nuclear power.

A Senate version of the legislation, which includes some, but not all, of the provisions highlighted in Dr. Lyman’s letter, passed the U.S. Senate as part of a larger bill last summer. U.S. House and Senate negotiators will need to arrive at a compromise before a final bill can be sent to President Biden.