Congress, Energy, Environment

Capito sponsors ADVANCE Act to advance nuclear power, encourage repurposing of defunct coal plants

MORGANTOWN — In 2022, the state Legislature lifted the ban on construction of nuclear power plants. Part of the motivation was finding ways to repurpose coal-fired plants that have been or will be shuttered — to keep the power flowing and keep people working.

Now, that idea is working its way through the U.S. Senate. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and two Democratic colleagues are leading a bipartisan group to advance the ADVANCE Act: Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy.

“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,” said Capito, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“This bill prioritizes 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,” she said. “It also directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a pathway for conventional energy source sites to be repurposed and used in the future.”

The bill has several components. Among them, it:

  • empowers the NRC to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors;
  • creates a prize to incentivize the successful deployment of next-generation nuclear reactor technologies;
  • reduces regulatory costs for companies seeking to license advanced nuclear reactor technologies;
  • requires the NRC to develop a pathway to enable the timely licensing of nuclear facilities at brownfield sites;
  • modernizes outdated rules that restrict international investment;
  • extends 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;
  • identifies modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper, and smarter;
  • provides the NRC 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, as NRC staff is under attrition pressure due to an aging workforce;
  • requires the NRC to periodically review and assess performance metrics and milestone schedules to ensure licensing can be completed on an efficient schedule.

EW chair and bill cosponsor To Carper, D-Del., said, “As our nation’s largest source of reliable, carbon-free electricity, nuclear energy is critical to meeting our climate goals and maintaining our energy security. The ADVANCE Act will help the United States remain a clean energy leader by providing the certainty needed to safely deploy the next generation of nuclear reactors and fuels. This bipartisan legislation will also ensure that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the tools and workforce to keep our current reactors safe and to efficiently review new nuclear technologies.”

Four other Democrats and four Republicans are also cosponsors.

Stakeholder support includes the Nuclear Energy Institute, the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Energy Institute, the Fastest Path to Zero Initiative, the Clean Air Task Force and the Nature Conservancy, among others.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp