Q&A: Assistant Secretary Rita Baranwal lays out her vision for the future of nuclear energy

Q: What are your top priorities in this new role?

A: I would like to have something built by 2025 to, with a sense of urgency, show not only the United States, but the rest of the world that we are still a powerhouse in this arena. This would likely be a micro-reactor or small modular reactor.

We need to demonstrate technology much sooner rather than later to validate that we are still at the top of our game. The U.S. has been developing advanced designs for several years. We have the technology and we have the expertise, but we need to deliver something.

My perception is that, globally, we are getting bypassed by other countries that are building and selling comprehensive packages faster. They are not going to wait for the United States. We are struggling to keep up and some of our policies are getting in the way. We invented this technology, so we are certainly capable of maintaining our leadership.

Another priority is to change the way this country values nuclear energy. It’s not the cheapest option right now, but over its lifetime it is the most valuable piece of our domestic energy portfolio. We need to look at things over the long haul and assess the benefits in a 10-year or 50-year plan.

Finally, it’s absolutely critical (pun intended) that we maintain our current fleet of robust reactors and develop new advanced technologies and supply chains to expand U.S. nuclear innovations around the world.

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