Nuclear Energy Infrastructure and U.S. National Security

In August 2017, Energy Futures Initiative, Inc. released a new report entitled, The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler.  The company, founded in June 2017 by former Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, is a “thought-leadership organization,” which aims to “provide policymakers, industry executives, NGOs and other leaders options on how to advance a cleaner, safer, more affordable and secure energy future.”  According to EFI, the report,

examines the key role the U.S. nuclear energy enterprise plays in meeting national security imperatives, and notes the important role the domestic nuclear energy industry plays in supplying the nation’s electricity system and maintaining a robust supply chain (equipment, services, and skilled personnel) that is necessary for U.S. leadership in global nuclear nonproliferation policy.

In addition, “EFI outlines immediate actions that the government should take to ensure the viability of the U.S. nuclear enterprise.”  The report argues that a “robust” nuclear energy enterprise in the United States provides key national security benefits in addition to “maintaining U.S. leadership in ensuring nuclear non-proliferation,” “supporting the U.S. nuclear Navy,” and “supporting the global strategic stability and deterrence value of nuclear weapons.”

One example of a key way in which a domestic nuclear energy enterprise is beneficial to U.S. national security is with regard to the Navy.  U.S. Navy nuclear submarines use highly enriched uranium, or HEU, to “fuel their reactors for long intervals between refueling.”  HEU, however, is a sensitive material because of its dual use potential: it can be used in nuclear weapons programs and for nuclear proliferation.  For that reason, “the entire supply chain” used to produce HEU must be of U.S. origin, but at the moment, “there is currently no such domestic capability in the supply chain,” says EFI.  For this reason and many others, EFI argues that the U.S. must bolster its nuclear energy infrastructure.

In addition, the report highlights the fact that while a strong domestic nuclear energy infrastructure is clearly beneficial for national security, it is also useful in other ways.  EFI explains that nuclear power generates zero greenhouse gas emissions, and as such, is one technology that should be considered in the quest to mitigate the risk of climate change, especially given its high capacity factor.  Furthermore,  a “portfolio of [power] generation technologies with fuel diversity” is a solid risk mitigation strategy when it comes to fuel prices.

For more information on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons with regard to U.S. homeland security, check out the Homeland Security Digital Library Featured Topics on Energy Security and Nuclear Weapons.