On December 7, 2021, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) introduced legislation to change the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (“NRC”) fee structure for licensing advanced technology.  The legislation, called the “Accelerating Nuclear Innovation through Fee Reform Act,” H.R. 6154, would amend Section 102(b) of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (42 U.S. Code § 2215(b)), by removing the NRC’s review fees for applications for advanced fission and fusion reactors.

By eliminating NRC review fees for advanced reactor license applications, the legislation aims to accelerate innovation and maximize private sector investment in advanced reactor technologies.

Under the NRC’s existing regulatory framework, the agency charges $288 per hour per person (for FY 2021) to review license applications proposing to build new advanced nuclear reactors.

The legislation, which is supported by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, ClearPath Action, and Third Way, has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and is now pending review.  The Nuclear Innovation Alliance compiled a report in 2021 analyzing the impact of NRC fee reform on public investment.  As explained in the report, under the current fee structure, advanced technology applications can face review costs of up to tens of millions of dollars—or higher—creating a disincentive to companies developing technologies and a hurdle to bringing novel concepts to market.  The report also describes how the NRC’s current fee system “poses a barrier” to advanced nuclear innovation by limiting NRC’s resources, flexibility and efficiency.

While H.R. 6154 would certainly lessen an administrative burden for applicants, one possible adverse impact may be that if the NRC removes these fees and has to rely on annual appropriations for conducting application reviews.  If funding falls short, or one application disproportionately takes up too many resources, it could result in unfair allocations for other applicants.

For more information, please contact the blog authors, Amy Roma, Partner, and Stephanie Fishman, Associate.