"Never wait for the federal government..." -- DOE Reflections

“Never wait for the federal government…”

 

To anyone who understands the implied punchline of the old adage I’m from the government, and I’m here to help, there is not a lot of wisdom in those six words.

As is custom now to start a meeting at the DOE, I had covered growing up in the rural north woods of Brainerd, Minnesota and my various scars received playing rugby for Dartmouth. Alyse Scurlock’s Florida Gators has been trashed for losing to the Aggies and Caroline Cochran’s Oklahoma roots exhumed to hash over the border rivalry with Texas.

That is when US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry asked the assembled Millennials around his private conference table what we would do if we were sitting in his chair.

Lenka Kollar of NuScale (and a Gen A Board Member) brought up the federal regulatory framework and the challenges facing advanced nuclear companies. Others chimed in, echoing a need for better federal guidance. Secretary Perry agreed and pivoted to his Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to FERC and the “discussion” it was meant to start - which continued while I waited my turn to speak.

I had read and annotated the NOPR in preparation for the meeting. And the nearly-200 page “Grid Study” the NOPR was issued in response to. And watched the three hour hearing of Secretary Perry in front of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee about the Grid Study and NOPR with our Technology Manager, Sam Brewer, around a bonfire in his parents’ backyard in rural Indiana. A lot of what I was hearing I had heard before. So I spoke up.

As Governor of Texas, Rick Perry oversaw an historic investment and expansion in deploying wind power. Texas became not only our nation’s leader, but one of the world leaders in wind energy. I pointed this out, as well as the similar pathway solar had taken to become codified as preferred technologies in policy. Given the volatile debates over major federal policy (such as health care and entitlement programs) waging inside the Beltway, the history of variable renewable energy technologies starkly illustrates the resilient legal framework created by individual states making a commitment and leading the way until federal policy is able to coalesce around those efforts. I suggested that if I were in his seat, I would be directing the states to push for nuclear, rather than relying on a federal-only solution.

 

And that’s when Secretary Perry looked me in the eyes and said: “You tell them I said: NEVER wait for the federal government.”

You can read our comment on Secretary Perry’s NOPR, where you will see we have taken those six words to heart. We have knocked on tens of thousands of doors, had thousands upon thousands of personal, thoughtful, informational conversations. And we will not stop. We fully support a federal energy policy that finally recognizes nuclear’s important role in powering our nation - but we know that will not happen on its own. It will take tens of thousands more conversations and pragmatic leadership from states and utilities.

Decisions are made by those who show up. We were lucky enough to be invited to the table to speak with Secretary Perry. But there are thousands of city councilmembers, environmental activists, state representatives, bloggers, trade unionists, neighbors, US Senators, public utility commissioners, friends, land family who are having this conversation or - much worse - are NOT having this conversation.

You need to write a letter. You need to make a phone call. You need to walk down your street and knock on doors or start the conversation at the dinner table. Screen Pandora’s Promise or The New Fire. Post on Facebook. Make an appointment with your legislator.

And if you don’t know how to do these things - that’s why we are here. We are Generation Atomic, and we know how to help.

P.S. Thank you to Suzie Jaworowski and the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy for inviting this discussion and asking us to be a part of it.

Learn more at: https://www.energy.gov/ne/office-nuclear-energy

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