Advanced Nuclear for Clean Power Act of 2024: Addressing Expected New Clean Power Demand

Over the past few months, electric utilities have been focused on projections of new demand for electric power, which is projected to increase by several times that of previous estimates. As the need for electricity continues to skyrocket, Congress must ensure demand can be met. 

In consideration of this growing demand comes the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act of 2024, an amendment included in the House approved version of S. 870, the Fire Grants and Safety Act. This ADVANCE Act is a compromise between S. 1111, the original ADVANCE Act, introduced by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and H. R. 6544, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act, authored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who serves as Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate and Grid Security.  

The legislation would upgrade the mission and staffing of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to bolster its role in the potential expansion of nuclear power, preparing the way for advanced nuclear power reactor deployments. In accord with the previous House and Senate bills, the ADVANCE Act amendment would direct the NRC to develop an accelerated licensing and review process to site and construct reactors at existing NRC licensed sites, and it would direct the NRC to establish a “timely, efficient and predictable licensing review” to enable the safe use of nuclear technology. Among other provisions, a streamlined timeline of 18 months is proposed in the amendment for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews. The legislation would also modify the NRC’s mission to prepare regulations allowing for the export of U.S. advanced nuclear power technologies and fuels, with consideration of U.S. national security interests. 

Many consider the future of nuclear power to hinge on advanced technologies with inherently safer designs and increased generation efficiencies. However, providing for this new demand of electricity cannot rely on new construction alone – it also means maintaining baseload capacity and clean energy sources like existing nuclear to the extent practicable. New resources, especially those based on new technologies, must be carefully planned to serve market needs, approved by regulators, and permitted and sited expeditiously in preparation for a well-orchestrated construction phase.  

By modernizing the licensing and approval processes at the NRC, the legislation could potentially accelerate the design and domestic commercialization of standardized reactors to address various applications – from microreactors of 1 megawatt (MW) to 20 MW in capacity and small modular reactors of approximately 20 MW to 300 MW to large reactors of 300 MW to over 1,000 MW in capacity. These size ranges could allow for deployments in data centers and industrial processes, small communities in need of energy resources for heat and power, military applications and traditional baseload electric utility power plants serving regional power demands. Future U.S. competitiveness in a global nuclear industry will depend on the ability of U.S. nuclear production to meet the needs of potential customers and countries seeking reliable, resilient and safe clean energy solutions. This amendment is a step toward that goal. 

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