US Senate passes legislation to speed nuclear deployment

20 June 2024

The bipartisan Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act aims to incentivise and support the development and deployment of new advanced nuclear technologies, including measures to streamline the regulatory approvals process.

(Image: Architect of the Capitol)

The act was introduced in the Senate in March 2023 by Senators Shelley Moore Capito, Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse, with co-sponsors including John Barrasso, Cory Booker, Mike Crapo, Lindsey Graham, Martin Heinrich, Mark Kelly and Jim Risch. It was passed by the Senate on 18 June as part of the Fire Grants and Safety Act (S. 870), by 88 votes to 2. The act was passed by the House earlier in May, by 393 votes to 13 and it now heads to the President for signature.

Carper, who is chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, described the passage of the act - with overwhelming bipartisan support - as a "major victory" for the climate and US energy security. "The ADVANCE Act will provide the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the tools and workforce it needs to review new nuclear technologies efficiently, while maintaining the NRC’s critical safety mission and creating thousands of new jobs. With the president’s signature, the ADVANCE Act will become the law of the land and lay the foundation for the safe and successful deployment of the next generation of advanced reactors in the coming decades," he said.

"This bipartisan piece of legislation will encourage more innovation and investment in nuclear technologies right here on our shores," Capito - the committee's Ranking Member - said. "It also directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to more efficiently carry out its important regulatory mission and helps redevelop conventional energy sites for future nuclear energy projects."

The ADVANCE Act, among other things, directs the NRC to look for ways to speed up its licensing process for new nuclear technology. It will reduce regulatory costs for companies seeking to license advanced nuclear reactor technologies, as well as creating a "prize" to incentivise the successful deployment of next-generation reactor technologies. It will also direct the NRC to enhance its ability to qualify and license accident-tolerant fuels and advanced nuclear fuels.

The act will also support the development of advanced nuclear reactors in other countries, empowering the NRC to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors, and directing the US Department of Energy to improve its process for approving the export of US technology to international markets, while maintaining strong standards for nuclear non-proliferation.

Streamlining the regulatory process, with international cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders, is widely seen as a key factor to the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors and advanced nuclear fuels at the scale required to tackle climate change and energy security concerns.

World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León said: "World Nuclear Association congratulates the US government on the passage of the ADVANCE Act, a great example of the leadership that is needed to achieve the tripling of global nuclear capacity by 2050. The essential need for an explicit mandate and the required human and financial resources for national regulators to streamline licensing and regulatory processes, increase international coordination and assist newcomer countries in developing regulatory competency has long been advocated by the Association, through our CORDEL Working Group. This is a most welcome step forward, and we look forward to more governments around the world to undertake similarly bold initiatives to accelerate their readiness for the expansion of nuclear power, thus unlocking the decarbonisation and energy security benefits that only nuclear energy can provide."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News