In recent months, there have been several announcements that bode well for the nuclear power industry. These more recent activities follow from the Inflation Reduction Act of August 2022 and the Defense Authorization Act of 2023 and 2024.
The Inflation Reduction Act provides support for existing and new nuclear development through investment and tax incentives for both large existing nuclear plants and newer advanced reactors, as well as high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) and hydrogen production.
One of the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act included infrastructure investments for the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) On October 25, 2022, the Department of Energy announced that this funding will support nearly a dozen projects at INL’s Advanced
Test Reactor Complex and Materials Fuels Complex, both of which have been operational for more than 50 years and serve an instrumental role in advancing nuclear technologies for
federal agencies, industry, and international partnerships.
In November 2022 Congressman Jeff Duncan released a Blueprint for Nuclear Innovation and Competitiveness to help chart the course for the nuclear energy agenda in the next Congress and facilitate policy discussions among both lawmakers and industry leaders. The blueprint highlights policy priorities in the nuclear energy industry in the realm of fuel, licensing and NRC modernization, financing, and spent nuclear fuel.
On July 11.2023, E&E News published an article highlighting the fact that “Congress has seen a surge this year of bipartisan nuclear legislation that, put together, would produce a mammoth build-out of reactors and fuel supplies over the next decade” The article went on top say “Nuclear energy, once viewed as too marred by a history of accidents and an
intractable waste problem, is now a common-ground energy source between traditional Republican boosters and climate-minded Democrats — many of whom are increasingly convinced that the zero-carbon energy is pivotal for the transition to a clean energy future.”
On July 14, 2023, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024. (HR2670) TITLE XXXI authorizes appropriations for the activities of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), defense environmental cleanup, nuclear energy, and other defense activities. This title also sets policy for certain nuclear related matters and authorizes new plant projects for the NNSA at specified locations. Sec. 3135 requires each
military department, if it is interested in using advanced nuclear technology, to submit a statement to Congress on certain needs related to deploying advanced nuclear reactors for military operations and logistical support.
On July 23, 2023 the US Senate passed the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act. The ADVANCE Act would
- Facilitate American Nuclear Leadership by:
- Empowering the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors.
- Develop and Deploy New Nuclear Technologies by:
- Reducing regulatory costs for companies seeking to license advanced nuclear reactor technologies.
- Creating a prize to incentivize the successful deployment of next-generation nuclear reactor technologies.
- Requiring the NRC to develop a pathway to enable the timely licensing of nuclear facilities at brownfield sites.
- Preserve Existing Nuclear Energy by:
- Modernizing outdated rules that restrict international investment.
- Extending a long-established, indemnification policy necessary to enable the continued operation of today’s reactors and give certainty for capital investments in building new reactors.
- Strengthen America’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Supply Chain Infrastructure by:
- Directing the NRC to establish an initiative to enhance preparedness to qualify and license advanced nuclear fuels.
- The bill identifies modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper, and smarter.
- Authorize funds for Environmental Cleanup Programs by:
- Authorizing funding to assist in cleaning up legacy abandoned mining sites on Tribal lands.
- Improve Commission Efficiency by:
- Providing the NRC Chair the tools to hire and retain highly specialized staff and exceptionally well-qualified individuals to successfully and safely review and approve advanced nuclear reactor licenses. This is essential with the NRC staff under attrition pressure due to an aging workforce.
- Requiring the NRC to periodically review and assess performance metrics and milestone schedules to ensure licensing can be completed on an efficient schedule.
by 16 specific supporters.
On July 27, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes ADVANCE Act legislation led by Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW)
Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and a bipartisan group of their colleagues that reasserts America’s position as the undisputed international leader for nuclear energy technologies.
These legislative acts by both houses of Congress make it apparent that out nation's leaders have recognized the importance of nuclear energy for the future of America and the world.
In December 2023 The 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28)
ended in Dubai with a Global Stocktake - unanimously agreed by all parties - calling for a transitioning away from fossil fuels and an acceleration of zero- and low-emission technologies, including nuclear. The World Nuclear Association said this was the
first time nuclear energy has been formally specified as one of the solutions to climate change in a COP agreement. During COP28, 24 countries backed a Ministerial Declaration calling for the tripling of global nuclear energy capacity by 2050, to achieve "global
net-zero greenhouse gas/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century and in keeping a 1.5°C limit on temperature rise within reach". “Nuclear energy‘s inclusion in the Global Stocktake is nothing short of a historic milestone and a reflection of how much perspectives have changed,” said International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano
Grossi. “It demonstrates there is now a global consensus on the need to scale up this clean and reliable technology to achieve our vital goals on climate change and sustainable development.”
This means that as uninformed environmentalists and supporters of wind and solar energy come to grips with the limitations of these technologies they will find that there is a groundswell building for nuclear power, the only green source of energy capable of providing the baseload of power needed by these intermittent sources. Hydropower is another green energy source, but its application is limited to those few areas where it is feasible.
One entity promoting this new emphasis on nuclear power is the Net Zero Nuclear coalition. “The initiative aims to focus the industry’s collective efforts on realistic, actionable, solutions-focused dialogue to enable the rapid expansion of the global nuclear fleet and the acceleration research and development into emerging nuclear technologies. “