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Earlier this week, a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators voted to approve the ADVANCE Act, sending a new piece of legislation specifically dedicated to the development of a national nuclear program off for a presidential signature for the first time in five years.
The legislation could accelerate the country’s nuclear program at a time when the U.S. desperately needs more clean, fim, reliable power to meet the growing demand from industries including telecoms and data centers, advanced manufacturing, and chemicals — all in desperate need of low carbon-emission sources of power.
However, there are at least considerations about the new legislation from the U.S. And the nuclear industry may want to avoid overstating exactly how much of an impact these reforms to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can have, according to Emerald Strategy Partners experts like Duane Olcsvary.
Here are 10 takeaways from the new climate legislation:
1. Although this bill can affect policy, it is not policy.  Energy policy is far more comprehensive.
2. All domestic assistance to advance US SMR technology is good.
3. Advancing U.S. SMR technology is beneficial, irrespective of one’s stance on climate change.
4. The legislation indicates a prize for reactor development, but we do not yet know the value of these “reactor prizes”. And while all help the nuclear industry can get is good — manufacturing infrastructure (fuel, forgings) should be included here.  These are capital-intensive activities that need help too.
5. “Advanced reactor” is used a lot here, but the term is not absolutely defined.  It is generally agreed that it includes SMRs.
6. Advancing SMR technology, without transparency of estimated cost, and without a clear and credible plan to reduce it, is a plan to build a small Vogtle project. (Vogtle ran roughly $16 billion over budget)
7. Microreactors are still reactors.  Potentially unsafe.  The technology should be first proven in military applications, then commercialized.
8.  Foreign investment in U.S. technology is good.  Foreign entities enjoying U.S. dollars to participate is not.
9.  “Reports”, which the legislation requires, on the progress in domestic manufacturing aren’t enough.  The manufacturers need more support.
10.  For “NRC streamlining,” to be successful, must include licensing professionals with actual experience in licensing nuclear new build under both 10CFR50, and 10CFR52.  These are the only people that can fully appreciate what real streamlining is.
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