Successful, community-supporting, next-gen nuclear projects are not yet a given. It’s why we do what we do. But a lot is happening in nuclear that gives cause for optimism. 

Take as an example the growing recognition that communities deserve transparent, accessible information about nuclear-related activities in their area. We were excited to see Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) lead this letter from 20 members of Congress (including four senators) to NRC Chair Chris Hanson. The letter urges the NRC to act swiftly to increase opportunities for public participation and bolster public confidence in the agency’s activities. Chair Hanson understands the importance of these kinds of trust-building measures; he said as much at his confirmation hearing April 17. We support Hanson as a capable leader at one of the busiest moments in the agency’s history. 

Congress has been equally active in the nuclear space. On the heels of the (finally) concluded Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations legislation that features robust funding for nuclear energy programs, Sens. Warner (D-VA) and Risch (R-ID) launched a caucus in the Senate to coordinate on advanced nuclear policy issues. In the House, lawmakers passed the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act, which could support the clean-up of uranium and other contaminated mine sites around the country — one step that we have identified could help advance restorative justice for frontline nuclear communities. Meanwhile, Energy and Commerce energy subcommittee members revived discussions over future domestic nuclear waste policy, spotlighting both the consent-based siting process for interim nuclear waste storage and spent fuel recycling — topics that Good Energy is focused on to help move the U.S. toward a more sustainable nuclear fuel cycle. 

Some changes are hitting the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy. On April 8, the office reorganized, notably splitting out many reactor R&D initiatives from other cross-cutting activities, such as university programs. (Happily, consent-based siting also gets its own sub-office under the Office for Spent Fuel and High-Level Waste Disposition.) Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Katy Huff will leave the agency May 3, returning to teaching at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Under her tenure, the agency has made key strides in fuel cycle development and reactor research, and has restarted a consent-based approach to siting nuclear waste. DOE-NE also celebrated passing the $1 billion mark on total cumulative college and university funding since 2009. And, predominantly through the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program, the agency under Dr. Huff has advanced conversations around the country on coal-to-nuclear transitions, recently citing Good Energy’s past work on the topic in an information guide.

Internationally, countries continue to build on the COP28 pledge among 22 nations to triple global nuclear capacity by 2050. In March, 30 countries, the European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Agency held the first-ever Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels; already, French President Emmanuel Macron has offered to host a second one. Though we, like European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, recognize the scale of the challenge facing new nuclear projects, we’re excited about the expanding interest in nuclear energy as a tool of emissions reduction and energy security. Organizations like the Global America Business Institute are rightly convening international nuclear experts and business leaders to coordinate and collaborate at this pivotal moment. Good Energy is part of these conversations, working to ensure that countries and nuclear project developers remember to support local workforces and work to earn local support for nuclear from the outset.