Bipartisan Bill Introduced in US Senate to Boost Nuclear Energy

It’s not as common as it used to be to see bipartisan activity in US politics these days, but a group of US senators from both parties yesterday introduced a bill to promote the building of new nuclear power plants both in the US and abroad.

There seems to be a growing trend in the US and other western countries to see nuclear power as a way to reduce dependence on petroleum energy for both environmental and geopolitical reasons, and this bill is supportive of this philosophy.

In the US, about 20 per cent of electricity is generated by nuclear power, and many of the existing plants are aging. This bill includes provisions to both build new plants and keep older plants online.

The stated goal of the ADVANCE bill is:

“To enhance United States civil nuclear leadership, suppor the licensing of advanced nuclear technologies, strengthen the domestic nuclear energy fuel cycle and supply chain, and improve the regulation of nuclear energy, and for other purposes.”

A one-sheet summary provides these details about the main goals of the legislation:

• Facilitate American Nuclear Leadership
– The bill empowers the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead in international forums to
develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors.
– The bill establishes a joint Commerce Department and Energy Department initiative to facilitate
outreach to nations that are seeking to develop advanced nuclear energy programs.

• Develop and Deploy New Nuclear Technologies
– The bill reduces regulatory costs for companies seeking to license advanced nuclear reactor
– The bill creates a prize to incentivize the successful deployment of next-generation nuclear reactor
– The bill requires the NRC to develop a pathway to enable the timely licensing of nuclear facilities at
brownfield sites.

• Preserve Existing Nuclear Energy
– The bill modernizes outdated rules that restrict international investment.
– The bill extends 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
– The bill directs the NRC to establish an initiative to enhance preparedness to qualify and license
advanced nuclear fuels.
– The bill identifies modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper,
and smarter.

• Authorize funds for Environmental Cleanup Programs
– The bill authorizes funding to assist in cleaning up legacy abandoned mining sites on Tribal lands.

• Improve Commission Efficiency
– The bill provides the NRC Chair the tools to hire and retain highly-specialized staff and
exceptionally well-qualified individuals to successfully and safely review and approve advanced
nuclear reactor licenses. This is essential with the NRC staff under attrition pressure due to an aging
– The bill requires the NRC to periodically review and assess performance metrics and milestone
schedules to ensure licensing can be completed on an efficient schedule.