Congress, Energy, Environment

Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act includes Capito legislation advancing nuclear power

MORGANTOWN – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s nuclear energy bill – the ADVANCE Act – moved forward Thursday night, as the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included the bill.

“With today’s passage of the bipartisan ADVANCE Act, we are one step closer to reestablishing America’s preeminence as the global leader in nuclear energy in the 21st century,” Capito said. “Not only does our legislation strengthen our national and energy security, it expands a clean, reliable power source that should remain a major part of our future energy mix.”

The NDAA passed the Senate 86-11. The House passed its own version of the bill last week, and the two bodies must now work out a compromise, as they contain areas of disagreement.

The ADVANCE Act – Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy – is bipartisan legislation led by Capito, who is ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, EPW Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

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  • modernizes outdated rules that restrict international investment;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.

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.

“I’m thankful for Chairman Carper, Sen. Whitehouse, and all those who worked with us to craft commonsense policy, go through regular order in our committee, and see it approved today by the full Senate,” Capito said.

Carper commented, “As our nation’s largest source of carbon-free electricity, nuclear energy is critical to meeting our climate goals and ensuring our energy independence. The ADVANCE Act would help modernize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, providing the agency with the tools and highly-skilled workforce necessary to facilitate the deployment of clean, affordable nuclear energy. The legislation would do so in a way that supports job creation and strengthens our nation’s nuclear leadership globally.”

Sen. Joe Manchin is an ADVANCE Act co-sponsor.