Lawmakers back measure to bolster U.S. nuclear energy sector

April 4, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News



Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), Tom Carper (D., Del.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) have introduced S. 1111—the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act.

Unveiled in the Senate on March 30, the legislation is cosponsored by a bipartisan septet of lawmakers: John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Martin Heinrich (D., N.M.), Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.), and Jim Risch (R., Idaho).

Bill basics: According to a news release yesterday from the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, the following would be accomplished by S. 1111:

■ Facilitate American nuclear leadership by

• empowering the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors;

• establishing a joint Commerce Department/Energy Department initiative to facilitate outreach to nations seeking to develop advanced nuclear energy programs.

■ Develop and deploy new nuclear technologies by

• reducing regulatory costs for companies seeking to license advanced nuclear reactor technologies;

• creating a prize to incentivize the successful deployment of next-generation nuclear reactor technologies;

• requiring the NRC to develop a pathway to enable the timely licensing of nuclear facilities at brownfield sites.

■ Preserve existing nuclear energy by

• modernizing outdated rules that restrict international investment;

• extending a long-established indemnification policy necessary to enable the continued operation of today’s reactors and give certainty for capital investments in building new reactors.

■ Strengthen America’s nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain infrastructure by

• directing the NRC to establish an initiative to enhance preparedness to qualify and license advanced nuclear fuels;

• identifying modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper, and smarter.

■ Authorize funds for environmental cleanup programs by sanctioning funding to assist in cleaning up legacy abandoned mining sites on tribal lands.

■ Improve NRC efficiency by

• providing the NRC chair with the tools to hire and retain highly specialized staff and exceptionally well-qualified individuals who will successfully and safely review and approve advanced nuclear reactor licenses;

• requiring the agency to periodically review and assess performance metrics and milestone schedules to ensure licensing can be completed on an efficient schedule.

Words from the sponsors: “America can and should be a leader when it comes to deploying nuclear energy technologies, and this bipartisan legislation puts us on a path to achieve that goal,” said Capito, the EPW Committee’s ranking member. “This bill prioritizes the future of American energy security by establishing commonsense policies to help deploy nuclear energy, which is a clean and reliable generation source for our nation’s electric grid. It also directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a pathway for conventional energy source sites to be repurposed and used in the future.”

EPW chair Carper added, “As our nation’s largest source of reliable, carbon-free electricity, nuclear energy is critical to meeting our climate goals and maintaining our energy security. The ADVANCE Act will help the United States remain a clean energy leader by providing the certainty needed to safely deploy the next generation of nuclear reactors and fuels. This bipartisan legislation will also ensure that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the tools and workforce to keep our current reactors safe and to efficiently review new nuclear technologies.”

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