One of Alaska's U.S. senators has put her support behind nuclear energy, saying the nation needs more advanced reactors.

This week, the Washington Examiner published an op-ed written by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, making a case for boosting the nuclear energy industry in the United States to grow the economy, strengthen national security, and mitigate climate change.

"We are losing a major source of clean, always-on energy at a time when U.S. electricity needs are forecast to grow 29 percent by 2040,” Murkowski wrote. “Russia, China, and South Korea have now surpassed us, and state-owned corporations are undercutting the United States in both price and time to market.”

Murkowski, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recently co-sponsored legislation to renew America’s nuclear power leadership.

S. 3422, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) will enable the federal government to partner with industry and research institutions to help boost nuclear energy innovation.

According to the committee, advanced nuclear reactors offer great promise in the search for clean, safe, and reliable power sources to meet national and global demand.

Much of Alaska’s nuclear past is intertwined with its history as a strategic front in the nation’s Cold War-era defense.

In the late 1950s, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s proposed Project Chariot would have gouged a deep-water harbor out of Alaska’s coastline near Cape Thompson using a nuclear blast. The Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles deployed near Anchorage from 1959 to 1979 also relied on tactical nuclear warheads intended to detonate amid groups of incoming Soviet bombers, according to the Nike Historical Society.

In 2003, Japanese company Toshiba and the city of Galena began discussing putting in a nuclear reactor power plant to provide to the island with power.

According to a Fairbanks News-Miner article, traditional nuclear power plants have more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, more than Fairbanks and Anchorage use combined. Toshiba's plan to build a 10-megawatt reactor was stalled, however, and the company never began the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval process.

The News-Miner reports that an Army Corps of Engineers team is planning on decommissioning the only nuclear power plant ever built in Alaska, Fort Greely’s SM-1A plant.

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