Bipartisan Nuclear Power Bill Advances in U.S. Senate

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PACE has written consistently about the need for nuclear power to remain part of the U.S. energy mix, not just for the low cost, reliable electricity it provides, but also for its role in a carbon-constrained future. And while closures to nuclear units in recent months have dimmed the outlook for American nuclear power to some degree, recent bipartisan legislative action in the Senate gives reason for hope.

Recently, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 18-3 to advance legislation designed to simplify the federal permitting process for new nuclear reactor designs. The legislation, Senate Bill 512, called the Nuclear Power Modernization Act, also includes changes to federal grant policies to ensure that all advanced nuclear technologies are treated the same under the law.

Read Senate Bill 512 Here

In addressing the bill, Republicans and Democrats alike appear to acknowledge the value of advanced nuclear technology.

“This legislation shows how we can work together, across the aisle, to address issues that are important for our country,” said Senator Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the committee. “When done responsibly, nuclear power can help combat the negative impacts of climate change on our environment and public health, while also providing economic opportunities for Americans.”

Carper was also instrumental in adding incentives for research and development of new, even-safer reactor designs to the final bill.

“Our bipartisan nuclear energy legislation will simplify and modernize regulations at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” added Environment Committee Chairman John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming. “Doing so will create jobs, lower energy costs and allow America to remain a leader in nuclear development. I thank my colleagues for supporting this bill and look forward to passing it on the Senate floor.”

Federal lawmakers aren’t the only ones taking note of the value of nuclear power. Late last month, on March 27th, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 11, lifting the state’s moratorium on construction of new reactors in the state. State Senator Daniel Carroll explained that lifting the moratorium is crucial to a “balanced generation mix.”

More remains to be done though. Many of the country’s 99 nuclear reactors are aging and are scheduled for closure or recertification in coming years. Currently, only four nuclear reactors are under construction in the U.S. These are Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Georgia and Summer Units 2 and 3 in South Carolina. These advanced nuclear technology units represent a new era of nuclear production in the U.S., with less waste and lower costs than previous designs. Hopefully, through the momentum created by legislation such as Senate Bill 512 in the U.S. Senate, nuclear power can continue to move forward as an important energy source that powers America’s economy.