Act aims to accelerate US deployment of new nuclear

05 April 2023

The Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act of 2023, introduced to the US Senate by a bipartisan group, aims to support efforts to develop and deploy new nuclear technologies at home and abroad by measures such as regulatory support for advanced nuclear technology deployment and facilitating the repurposing of conventional energy sites.

(Image: Angelique Johnson/Pixabay)

The act - S. 1111 - was introduced in Senate on 30 March by Senators Shelley Moore Capito, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse, with co-sponsors including John Barrasso, Cory Booker, Mike Crapo, Lindsey Graham, Martin Heinrich, Mark Kelly and Jim Risch.

The act would empower the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors, as well as setting up a joint initiative of the US Departments of Commerce and Energy to facilitate outreach to nations that are seeking to develop advanced nuclear energy programmes.

To support the development and deployment of new technologies, the bill would reduce regulatory costs for companies seeking to licence advanced reactor technologies, and require the NRC to develop a pathway to enable the "timely licensing" of nuclear facilities at brownfield sites. It would also create a prize to incentivise the successful deployment of next-generation reactor technologies.

It would support the preservation of existing nuclear capacity through the modernisation of rules that restrict international investment and extending by 20 years the Price-Anderson Act, a nuclear liability law which provides indemnity for US nuclear power plants. As well as enabling the continued operation of today's reactors, this would provide certainty for capital investments in new nuclear projects.

The bill also aims to strengthen the USA's fuel cycle and nuclear supply chain infrastructure by measures including regulatory preparedness to qualify and licence advanced nuclear fuels, and the use of modern manufacturing techniques in nuclear projects. Also under the supply chain and infrastructure banner comes a specific requirement for the regulator to review its capacity to licence additional conversion and enrichment capacity at existing and new fuel cycle facilities to reduce reliance on nuclear fuel that is recovered, converted, enriched, or fabricated by any entity owned by - or under the jurisdiction of - Russia.

Preserving and expanding US use of nuclear energy is essential to advancing its energy and national security interests and achieving environmental goals, the senators said in a one-page backgrounder, which also says that the ongoing war in Ukraine and China's nuclear building programmes "highlight the importance of American leadership in providing energy security - at home and abroad," they said, with the international community seeking to reduce reliance on Russia: "Exporting American nuclear technologies will benefit the domestic industrial base and fill a vacuum that could otherwise be filled by Russia and China."

"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," Capito said. "This bill prioritises 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. I'm proud to lead a strong, bipartisan group of senators in introducing the ADVANCE Act, which signals an important step toward strengthening America's nuclear energy sector."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News