Secretary of Energy Rick Perry wants to bring back nuclear energy.
Speaking to White House reporters at the press briefing room, Perry recalled growing up in a time where nuclear energy in America was the future.
“When I was younger in the ’60s … a lot of kids wanted to go into the nuclear energy field,” he said. “At my alma mater there were a lot of young boys and girls who wanted to be nuclear engineers.”
Perry appeared saddened by the failed promise of nuclear energy, noting that it had been “strangled” by government regulations.
“One of the things we want to do at DOE is to make nuclear energy cool again,” he said.
The New York Times reported that construction of nuclear power plants has “all but disappeared in the United States,” thanks to an increasingly burdened regulatory system after Toshiba announced in February their decision to shut down Westinghouse, a nuclear power subsidiary in America.
But President Donald Trump wants to change that.
In May of 2016, the president included nuclear energy in his speech on developing the country’s energy resources, vowing to reduce the regulatory burdens in the United States.
“We will get the bureaucracy out of the way of innovation, so we can pursue all forms of energy,” Trump promised. In March, the president signed an executive order directing all agency heads to review regulations that could burden the production of nuclear power, as well as other forms of energy.
The pursuit of nuclear energy has environmental implications.
After several reporters grilled him on climate change, Perry spoke about the importance of expanding nuclear energy to reduce emissions.
“I believe no clean energy portfolio is truly complete without nuclear power, and so does the President,” he said, calling for the development of advanced nuclear reactors and small modular nuclear reactors.
The push for nuclear energy has national security implications as well. The Westinghouse bankruptcy was a setback for America’s effort to provide nuclear fuel to European countries, something that Russia and China are pursuing.
Under former President Barack Obama, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously approved the sale of Uranium One to Russian companies, ceding control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States while accepting major donations from the Russian investors to the Clinton Foundation.
Perry warned that Russia and China were actively pursuing nuclear energy technology to “leverage their political place” in the world.
“We need as a county, I think, to again bring us to that place where the nuclear energy is a part of a portfolio and to be able to sell it in great truthfulness and honesty about what it can add to America both from an environmental standpoint and from a security standpoint,” he said.