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Nuclear Power Gets Long-Awaited, Bipartisan Boost

New bipartisan legislation and rules from the Biden administration are “putting teeth behind a renewed … push for nuclear power,” POLITICO Pro (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: The “policy stasis” that has for decades hampered the nuclear industry “could finally be changing, as Congress injects billions of dollars and modernizes regulations that advocates have long said are needed to move the industry into the future.”

  • The government-funding package signed into law by President Biden last week includes $2.7 billion to the Department of Energy to boost domestic uranium enrichment, “a rare point of widespread agreement between Democrats and Republicans.”
  • That’s in addition to the new authorities granted in the Nuclear Fuel Security Act, part of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. “That law created new programs at DOE to provide incentives for production of the fuel—known as high-assay, low-enriched uranium—that will be critical for advanced reactors but is largely produced in Russia.” The DOE began evaluating proposals for HALEU enrichment last week.
  • The president’s budget, released Monday, includes funding for nuclear, and the funding bill comprises $100 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “to boost nuclear workforce training.”

Faster licensing: A bipartisan bill to streamline the NRC’s licensing process for advanced reactors passed overwhelmingly in the House last month—and a few weeks later, the commission made some internal changes.

  • “The NRC earlier this month issued a significant rewrite to its ‘Part 53’ proposal—a rule aimed at speeding up the licensing process for the small nuclear reactors that many see as the industry’s future.”

Russian uranium: A bill to ban Russian imports of uranium passed the House last year but remains stalled in the Senate.

The last word: “Nuclear is a critical piece of the sustainable, affordable energy mix our future requires,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris. “Now we need to speed up the licensing process to get nuclear projects online faster.”  

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