On Thursday, a team of eight U.S. Senators introduced S. 512, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act. As described in a press release by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, this bill tackles a number of issues affecting the licensing of advanced reactors. It promises to “establish new transparency and accountability measures to the commission’s budget and fee programs,” “develop the regulatory framework necessary to enable the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors,” and “improve the efficiency of uranium regulation,” among other things. The text of the bill can be found here.
S. 512 builds off of a prior version of the bill introduced in 2016, numbered S. 2795 (see a prior post on this legislation here). Among some of the changes from the 2016 version, S. 512 contains new sections on uranium recovery and transfers. It also adds a new focus on the licensing of new types of nuclear reactor fuel—for example, it now asks that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission evaluate “strategies for the qualification of advanced nuclear reactor fuel, including the use of computer modeling and simulation and experimental validation.”
A similarly-named bill, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, was introduced in Congress earlier in 2017 (S. 97 and H.R. 431). You can see our blog post on this legislation here. The Senate version of the bill, which was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, shares some of the same sponsors as S. 512. The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act appears to focus more on R&D and the use of national laboratories to assist nuclear energy innovators. On the other hand, S. 512, which is broader in scope, focuses more on NRC licensing.
The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act is an exciting piece of legislation. We will continue to inform readers as it moves through the legislative process.