Let us add our voices to the long list of those who are celebrating Thom Mason’s extraordinary leadership of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We had the opportunity to work closely with Mason over the more than six combined years we led the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, and we can attest to his vision, his character and his technological and managerial excellence.

While the primary mission of Oak Ridge is in the basic sciences, the laboratory pioneered the development of a wide range of nuclear energy technologies and remains one of the world’s leading nuclear energy research institutions. And the lab’s nuclear energy mission is poised to grow considerably. Technology giants like Bill Gates and Peter Thiel are among many innovators investing in a new generation of nuclear technologies, including concepts cooled with novel materials like molten salts, liquid metals or inert gases instead of water. Delivering these technologies to market is being accelerated through access to the world-class nuclear science and engineering capabilities at Oak Ridge and across the DOE network of national laboratories. We worked extensively with Mason to chart a course for continued nuclear innovation in the U.S., and we hope this work continues under his successor.

For Oak Ridge to realize its full promise as an engine of nuclear technology innovation, Congress and the federal government need to expand support to the nation’s nuclear innovators. Historically, the government has worked through private-public partnerships to help companies bring new nuclear technologies to market. It was this cooperation that led to the construction of the nearly 100 operating commercial nuclear power reactors that provide roughly 20 percent of U.S. electricity. With last year’s…