It’s a pleasure for me to join you today, Ted, both to hear from this impressive group and to speak briefly on the Department of State’s energy priorities and our strategy for international outreach.
Eight months ago, I was honored to take on the role of Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources in the midst of a historic transition in geopolitics and geoeconomics. It was six months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the effects were – and continue to be – felt around the world. In my 34 years as a Foreign Service Officer, I have never seen energy security so suddenly and consistently at the forefront of policy. Perhaps not since the 1970’s has this been the case, and that was a different era – an era of fossil fuel dominance.
As we move definitively into the era of clean energy, we are facing a formidable challenge – to supply the world’s growing demand for energy while accelerating the clean energy transition.
The task ahead of us – limiting global average temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 – is daunting: the global clean energy transition will require deploying, at massive scale, the full range of clean energy technologies available over the next decade and beyond. This will clearly be one of the greatest economic opportunities of the century.
For the United States, nuclear is an integral component of that transition. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to envision a scenario where the world achieves net-zero on the required timeline without significant amounts of nuclear power.
Further, the clean energy transition is also a matter of energy security. Diversifying the sources and suppliers of energy helps us to provide the reliable and affordable energy that underlies our economic growth.
The United States pioneered the peaceful uses of nuclear energy around the world and remains the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, something I was reminded of every day during my three years working at the U.S. mission to the IAEA in Vienna.
The Biden Administration has maintained the United States’ decades-long commitment to advancing nuclear energy as a central part of the solution to the dual challenges of energy access and climate neutrality.
Nuclear power will help achieve net zero by 2050 as an integral power source, but also by decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors beyond electricity including cost-competitive clean hydrogen, industrial process heat, and a range of other applications integral to decarbonization.
Nuclear power can help convert economies reliant on large-scale coal-fired generation to clean energy – and as I travel the world, I am hearing tremendous interest in this concept. We’ll hear more today about how SMRs offer unique additional advantages, principally the ability to be scaled to meet a respective grid’s needs, and the benefits in terms of safety, affordability, and capacity to work with other clean power sources.
However, as we accelerate the clean energy transition, we must avoid re-creating any dependence on unreliable suppliers.
Both Russia and the PRC seek access to nuclear markets as a means of exercising long-term, political influence. Moscow and Beijing recognize the strategic benefits that can be gained through 50-to-100-year civil nuclear cooperation and are aggressively seeking to dominate the market. This threatens our shared strategic and security interests and weakens global safety, security, and nonproliferation standards.
Thankfully, with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. advanced nuclear developers have stepped up to the plate to meet demands for nuclear technology and regain leadership. We are excited about the promise of these emerging and more flexible technologies and their potential the economy and for energy security.
And the good news is that every single day at the State Department we receive inquiries and expressions of interest – from countries all around the world – about how they can incorporate the latest advances in nuclear energy to help them become more energy independent and secure, while at the same time meeting our collective decarbonization goals.
At the Department of State, we are taking action – in partnership with the Departments of Energy and Commerce, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, USTDA, EXIM, DFC, and others – to advance U.S. clean tech competitiveness.
But we can’t do it alone. We must build trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific partnerships if we are to maintain the high global standards that the United States has led over the decades.
We must find ways for our suppliers to work with those from like-minded partners to bring the benefits of nuclear energy to bear on the climate crisis and energy independence for our friends and Allies.
And with that, it’s now my pleasure to welcome our esteemed guests from the Czech Republic.
This past month we had the Czech Foreign Minister here in Washington, where my boss, Secretary Blinken, had the opportunity to express our appreciation for the Czech Republic’s leadership in addressing many of the unprecedented security challenges we are facing, including the important the enduring support for Ukraine. That leadership also includes Czech interest in and support for the deployment of preeminent U.S. nuclear energy technology.
We see the deployment of nuclear energy as an energy security and a national security priority for Europe.
Part of my interest in speaking here today is to extoll the unique benefits of nuclear energy in Europe. While those of us in the nuclear community are aware of the many advantages that nuclear energy provides, communicating that message to all relevant stakeholders is key; and this is another reason why I am so glad that our guests from the Czech Republic are hearing from U.S. industry directly.
Echoing Secretary Blinken’s assurance to his Czech counterpart, I want to reiterate the U.S. government’s commitment to strengthening and expanding our strategic and alliance relationship with the Czech Republic. We also welcome the Czech Republic’s forward-looking approach to deep decarbonization of the energy sector and industry, including through the use of small modular reactors. And I’m really delighted that U.S. companies are under consideration for a range of important nuclear tenders in the Czech Republic today.
These efforts have the strong political-level commitment from the Biden Administration. In particular, the Czech Republic’s early movements towardsSMRs will strengthen the case for Czech companies to be deeply integrated into the supply chains and construction opportunities for the next phase of the civil nuclear industry here and across Europe.
As I said to Tomáš, when we met at the State Department, earlier this week, I also want to thank our Czech colleagues, for their efforts to face the challenges of addressing both the climate crisis and energy security.
I also want to thank the Czech Republic for its long-standing collaboration on civil nuclear-related safety and security efforts.
I look forward to the rest of this conversation and hearing the panel’s thoughts today.
And with that, I am extremely pleased to introduce today’s keynote speaker, Director General Tomáš Ehler, from the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade.
….Energy and nuclear relationships are about more than just power. They are about National Security and our alliance commitments.
Now I would like to return briefly to a point I made earlier, which is to affirm the United States’ commitment to clean energy innovation and to working in partnership with our international partners and the U.S. interagency to support this commitment.
Our next speaker’s presence here demonstrates the importance that our British allies attribute to the development of carbon-free civil nuclear energy as an integral part of addressing the simultaneous challenges of supporting economic development, strengthening energy security, and tackling the climate crisis.
Our two countries agree on the vital need to advance and increase deployment of new reactor technologies domestically and internationally, in cooperation with other partners and allies.
To that end, President Biden has outlined a plan to establish the United States as a leader in climate and clean energy innovation by funding the procurement and export of civil nuclear technologies, including large nuclear power plants, small modular reactors, Gen 4 reactors, microreactors, and
fusion technologies, which will also help to create jobs and reinvigorate local economies here in the United States.
But I also see tremendous opportunity to expand and enhance our partnership with Britain through nuclear energy cooperation, not the least of which is strengthening both our national and energy securities; this is also a unique moment to support Ukraine and to drive Putin out of energy markets for good.
And with that, I am sorry that the Right Honorable Grant Shapps was unable to make it today to Washington this morning due to a travel mishap, but I am very pleased to introduce Chris Heffer, the Director for Nuclear Power, Infrastructure and Decommissioning, at the Department for Energy Security, and I look forward to seeing Secretary Shapps later today as will Secretary Granholm, will be as well, so thank you very much, and over to Chris.