December 15, 2017


To the Congressional Appropriations Committee Chairs and Ranking Members, Congressional Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members:

Dear Members of Congress,

We are writing as scientists, conservationists and citizens to thank you for your support for the DOE’s Advanced Fuels Program within the Office of Nuclear Energy, which has been funded through Congressional appropriations since 2012, and has given priority to safety through nuclear accident tolerant fuel (ATF) development. We strongly support the $75M funding level in the fiscal year 2018 bill by the appropriation members of the Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee.

Nuclear power has made vital contributions to U.S. energy production since our first reactor began commercial operation in 1969. Since then, nuclear has generated 20 percent of total U.S. electricity, and nuclear around the world has prevented an estimated 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths. However, it is acknowledged today that nuclear power is in crisis, and needs visionary leadership to build public acceptance toward a strong coalition of support.

At the same time, we need innovations in nuclear power. Decades of research combined with continued high-capacity operation have provided steady advancements in Light Water Reactor performance such that it is near the inherent limit of current technology. Economic and security threats to the existing U.S. nuclear fleet are not abating--we need newer technologies that can act as a ballast for the existing fleet.

Significant progress has been made on accident tolerant fuels (ATFs) that cannot melt down quickly or produce explosive hydrogen gas. ATFs represent nuclear fuel’s first fundamental advancement, and their adoption requires significant development to overcome regulatory hurdles.

With Congressional support to meet the challenge, the DOE launched the Advanced Fuels Campaign following Japan’s Fukushima accident in 2011. The campaign includes major industry-led ATF development efforts with the major fuel manufacturers, and includes over 30 university-led ATF projects being conducted at 15 universities. Thanks to these efforts, ATF designs will be first tested in commercial reactors in the first quarter of 2018. This will be an important first step towards full deployment in the late 2020s.

Congressional support for ATFs moves the U.S. closer to realizing this technology’s enhanced energy production by way of safer, more efficient, and more cost-effective nuclear plant operation. And ATF technologies are an opportunity to enhance the U.S. global nuclear export profile, which is flagging now.

The potentially groundbreaking significance of ATFs to the U.S. nuclear industry is supported by the proposed funds for ATF technology development and deployment. Efforts to streamline the regulatory process will also speed development. We agree with the Senate bill’s support for the NRC’s review of state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools from the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) for use in its licensing process and safety reviews.

We want the near-term safety and economic contributions from accident tolerant fuel technologies to to be adopted quickly as the Gen IV and small modular reactor technologies continue their longer development paths. By supporting the passage of this and future appropriations for accident tolerant fuels programs, you can help ensure the revitalization of the U.S. nuclear fleet.  




Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress, co-author, “Post- Partisan Power”

James Hansen, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Steven Pinker, Harvard University, Better Angels of Our Nature

Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize recipient, author of Nuclear Renewal and The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. Winner of the National Medal of Science, 2001

Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John Asafu-Adjaye, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland School of Economics

Christopher Dickman, Professor in Terrestrial Ecology, Univeristy of Sydney

Erle C. Ellis, Ph.D, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland

Nicholas Gallucci, Nonproliferation and National Security Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL)

Kirsty Gogan, Executive Director, Energy for Humanity

Andrew Klein, President, American Nuclear Society

Mark Lynas, author, The God Species, Six Degrees

Steve Kirsch, CEO, Token

Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School

Jeff Terry, Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology

Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University

John Lavine, Professor and Medill Dean Emeritus, Northwestern University

Martin Lewis, Department of Geography, Stanford University

Michelle Marvier, Santa Clara University

Norris McDonald, President, Environmental Hope and Justice

Alan Medsker, Coordinator, Environmental Progress - Illinois

David W. Lea, Professor of Earth Science, University of California Santa Barbara

Elizabeth Muller, Executive Director of Berkeley Earth

Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, UC Berkeley, Co-Founder, Berkeley Earth

Paul Robbins, Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, India

Barrett Walker, Alex C. Walker Foundation

Tom Wigley, Climate and Energy Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado


*Organizations listed for identification purposes only