DOE Re-Opens Arctic Energy Office with Emphasis on Advanced Nuclear

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On September 17, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the re-opening of its Arctic Energy Office (AEO), which was originally established in 2001, but failed to take off due to insufficient funding.  Senator Murkowski (R-AK) pushed for the re-establishment of this office in the 2020 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which supported the “promotion of research, development, and deployment of electric power technology that is cost-effective.”

The DOE will coordinate with AEO on a variety of activities in the Arctic region, including on nuclear power systems. According to the DOE factsheet on the AEO, the Arctic region has utilized nuclear energy as a source of “power, heat and transportation,” and currently studies are exploring various applications of advanced nuclear energy, such as microreactors and small modular reactors, in the region. The goal of this effort is to create sustainable energy solutions in the Arctic region, while also prioritizing national security through coordination with a variety of stakeholders.  According to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, the AEO “will grow to strengthen and coordinate our work in energy, science, and national security and help build an Arctic future of prosperity and increased opportunity.”

This is an important step to ensure U.S. competitiveness in nuclear infrastructure in the Arctic. A substantial nuclear presence in the Arctic region would promote U.S. innovation and heightened nuclear safety standards. Just last year, Russia introduced its first floating nuclear power plant built to provide power to the 50,000 people inhabiting Pevek.  For more information on the importance of promoting U.S. innovation in nuclear please refer to the report, Back from the Brink: A Threatened Nuclear Energy Industry Compromises National Security, co-authored by Amy Roma, Partner, and Sachin Desai, Senior Associate.

The AEO will be located on the University of Alaska, Fairbanks campus, and the university will provide the office with research and resources from its Alaska Center for Energy and Power testing facility.  AEO will also receive support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility.

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