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Sen. Warner makes stop in Hill City to discuss clean energy, CHIPS Act with business leaders

See story at the News & Advance...U.S. Sen. Mark Warner made a stop in the Hill City on Friday afternoon, visiting the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance to meet with business and higher education leaders of Central Virginia to talk about nuclear energy and his recently-championed CHIPS and Science Act in the U.S. Senate.

In addition to discussing the CHIPS Act, Warner also spoke about the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act, which incentivizes investments into clean, renewable energy forms, such as nuclear energy.

During the roundtable, Warner said the current times are “exciting, but challenging,” when it comes to energy, as many industries look to transition from coal-powered energy to new forms of clean energy, specifically nuclear, which he talked about at length Friday.

“Central Virginia, you have incredible assets, particularly in the nuclear space,” Warner said during the roundtable, highlighting the work that has been done by local companies such as Framatome and BWX Technologies in the nuclear energy space.

Recently, BWX Technologies has partnered with NASA to help supply coated reactor fuels, which could enable deep space exploration with nuclear technology.

Warner, a self-proclaimed believer in the “huge opportunities” of deep space exploration, is a fan of exploring the potential of nuclear energy for space exploration, something already happening in Lynchburg.

“Evidence is that [rare earth minerals] may be abundant in space, with the moon, asteroids, other planets. And I do think the idea of deep space exploration based on nuclear is clearly a path that needs to be explored,” Warner said.

Aside from deep space exploration, Warner also talked about the importance of the United States becoming energy independent from other countries amidst the ongoing war in Ukraine, suggesting Russia could be the biggest threat to energy across the world.

“A lot of my thinking has honestly altered a little bit over the last year,” Warner said, alluding to his post as the chairman of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, where he sees “real time, the ramifications of the war in Ukraine.”

Warner said he used to think the switch from fossil fuels over to clean forms of energy would be a quick transition, but admitted he is now “much more educated on the subject today than I was a few years back.”

“I think nuclear has another moment,” the senator would go on to say, “not just on our subs and military missiles, but in terms of commercial use. And I think I’m looking forward ... to help make sure this is a benefit to Central Virginia.”

Warner also addressed his recently passed CHIPS Act, which will allow for the production of semiconductor chips in America, as opposed to China, calling the competition in technology between the two countries “the competition of this century.”

“Our beef is with the Communist Party of China and Xi Jinping, and not with these people, not with Chinese Americans or Asian Americans. But China is a competitor unlike anything we’ve faced, I believe, in my lifetime.”

Warner later added, “if all this chip production resides in Taiwan or China, that is a national security issue, as well as a lack of jobs and innovation issue in America.”

As a part of the CHIPS Act, Warner said he is focused on bringing one of the several proposed semiconductor chips to the Commonwealth, but maybe not specifically to Central Virginia, as the plots of land required to house the plants may not exist in the immediate area.

“I’m very interested in making sure that we get one of those chips manufacturers here in Virginia,” Warner said.

“Some of the big ones will require 2,000 acres, so we only have about four mega-sites. One of those is down in Pittsylvania County, one is over in Chesterfield,” Warner said about potential locations in the Commonwealth, “but we’re behind.

“Other states have put up a lot more money and we need both additional state resources, but we also need a whole plan on how we target which companies we want to go after.”