Senate Goes Nuclear in Near-Unanimous Vote

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The Senate passed a package to strengthen the country’s nuclear power sector, sending it to President Biden’s desk.

The package reduces regulatory burdens on licensing new nuclear reactors and reduces the fees that a company must pay to do so.

It also orders the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to investigate ways to simplify and shorten the environmental review process for nuclear power production.

The package received widespread bipartisan support in the Senate and the House, which previously passed the package in a 393-13-1 vote.

“Hopefully it will be history-making in terms of small modular reactors, which is the future of nuclear,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who authored the legislation, said to reporters Tuesday.

Lesley Jantarasami, managing director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s energy program, said the bill is very likely to lead to more nuclear projects being built.

However, not everyone is in favor.

Edwin Lyman, nuclear power safety director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Hill the regulatory changes make the nuclear sector less safe.

“I just see this as inviting the industry to challenge every decision that the commission tries to make that has the potential to impose more than this minimum amount of regulation and could essentially paralyze it from actually working to improve nuclear safety and security,” he said.

The White House has not commented on the package or whether Biden intends to sign it, but national climate adviser Ali Zaidi supported the bill on X.

“Really appreciate the bipartisan efforts on advanced nuclear,” he posted.

“We benefit from more tools in the toolbox as we take on the climate crisis — with the urgency the moment demands,” Zaidi added.

The US is the world leader in nuclear power, producing a third of the global output.

But China is not far behind and has heavily invested in nuclear power technology. It has a goal of building 150 new reactors by 2035, with at least 27 underway.

The US currently has no new nuclear reactors in progress, and the latest expansion of Plant Vogtle in Georgia was hampered by delays and financial issues.

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