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Senator (former Commissioner) Cramer on Nuclear

Kevin Cramer was a North Dakota utility regulator for twelve plus years, through 2012, before his present position, a United States Senator. On March 30, the Senator gave the closing remarks at a conference in New York that gathered just about everybody leading the advanced nuclear energy revolution. Hosted by EPRI, EEI, NEI, Guggenheim Securities, Nuclear Innovation Alliance.

With humor and fervor, here’s what Senator (former Commissioner) Cramer said:

“No one ever showed up at a hearing to tell me what a great regulator I was. It was the perfect training for this job [as a United States Senator]. I've never been afraid of the town hall ever since being a utility regulator.

I had a great mentor. Tony Clark was on the [North Dakota Public Service] Commission with me for ten years. My first week it was like RTO Week or something. Because MISO was just getting started. And we were trying to figure [it] out.

Nobody in Minnesota elected me. Why would I have to be subject to a Regional Transmission Organization? That's absurd to a guy like me.

I remember I went in and said, Tony, I think I've made a terrible mistake. I am drowning in all of this RTO talk.

He said — and Tony's Episcopalian for those of you who don't know that his dad's an Episcopalian priest — “do you believe in baptism by immersion?” And I said, “I do.” He said, “it'll be fine. It'll all work out.”

But the best training by far for the job I have now. I was a soccer referee, high school, college. Twenty-three of us out on the pitch. And I knew less than the other twenty-two. But as my trainer told me one time, the good thing is none of the other twenty-two know you know less than them.

So, I just sit here [at the “Investing in Advanced Nuclear Energy” conference] and listen to a whole bunch of experts who were brilliant, every single one of them. I agree, I think, about everything that was said.

The only thing I would say, you guys. I think you're too modest in many ways. I really do…

I've always said to do this [U.S. Senator] job well, you can either be really smart or really resourceful. So, I lean heavily on resourcefulness.

Sitting through these two panels, that's what I'm talking about, learning from experts. I'm really not an expert.

I'm not even really a utility expert. Certain things make sense to me. Supply, demand, price signals. How do you take highly regulated monopoly utilities and apply market solutions? You can do that sort of thing.

Tony and I were the first two people in the history of American regulatory prowess that voted and successfully decoupled gas rates. The volume from the fixed costs. Everyone said, it can't be done. It's politically suicide. No. Price signals matter…

But basic concepts, you guys. When I talk about your modesty, here's what I mean. I do believe in “all the above.” But nuclear is the perfect fuel. It's the perfect fuel. I hope you realize that while diversity's important — and several of you talked about that — you have the perfect solution for all of the things.

If your issue is reliability, and that's one of mine, it's nuclear. If your issue is emissions and the environment, it's nuclear. If your issue is dispatchability, it's nuclear.

All of the other fuels, including my beloved coal. Yes, we're big champions of carbon capture, utilization, storage. And yes, the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act] was a partisan-passed bill.

But a lot of bipartisan work went into it. Like 45Q, the ITC, that [U.S. Senator] Ben Cardin and I worked on for about three years together…

Here's one of my concepts. I refuse to believe that every transaction in Washington, D.C. requires a loser. I don't believe that. I believe a lot of transactions — and in fact, the best transactions — have winners and winners…

We don't talk about it a lot. Guess what? MSNBC and Fox News aren't that interested in the things we do together.

But as partisan as the IRA was in terms of its passage, many of the outcomes are not. It's in many ways what you celebrate today [at this conference].

I was concerned about this as a defense hawk and as an energy champion. Somebody said we don't export much anymore. What we've been exporting for decades is our exceptionalism in this [nuclear] area, our opportunities. We were exporting opportunities.

But guess what? We recaptured it before it was too late.

Somewhat by demand [for nuclear energy] that was created by things like wars, things like energy security, becoming relevant to a lot more people. Thank God a lot of you stayed in the fight long enough to hang on to the intellectual, and the academic, and of course the practical and political and financial nuggets and strains that kept this in the fight.

Because now as the opportunity presents itself, you're in the gappers [a stock market term for a certain kind of opportunity]. And we need you to be successful.

I have a whole bunch of notes I haven't even looked at. My job here, I think, is not to educate people who smarter than me.

My job here is to encourage you. And to let you know that there are a lot of champions in the United States Congress from both political parties, from both sides of the hill, from both sides of the building.

You just keep doing the right things. Believe me folks, the demand [for nuclear energy] is there.

Whether it's small. Whether it's large. Whether it's mobile.

American innovation and knowhow have always been our edge. Thank God, we didn't lose it here. Because now we need that edge again as we re-on-shore friend-shore.

By the way, allies are important. I'm not an isolationist. But the world is tough. So, we need to work closer with friends.”