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US House passes advanced nuclear act

Courtesy ‘World Nuclear News’:

The US House of Representatives – the lower chamber of the United States Congress – has approved a handful of bipartisan bills from the last session of Congress that aim to bolster research on advanced nuclear reactors, allow for more challenges at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and change rules for federal efficiency standards. The Advanced Nuclear Technology Act of 2017 was passed by voice vote on 23 January.

The document, H.R. 590, is titled ‘To foster civilian research and development of advanced nuclear energy technologies and enhance the licensing and commercial deployment of such technologies’.

In a statement, announcing passing of the Act, Congress noted that nuclear energy generates about 20% of the total electricity and about 60% of the carbon-free electricity of the USA. Nuclear power plants operate consistently at a 90% capacity factor, and provide consumers and businesses with reliable and affordable electricity, it said. Nuclear power plants “generate billions of dollars in national economic activity” through nationwide procurements and “provide thousands of Americans with high paying jobs contributing substantially to the local economies in communities where they operate”, it added.

The USA’s commercial nuclear industry “must continue to lead the international civilian nuclear marketplace”, it said, “because it is one of our most powerful national security tools, guaranteeing the safe, secure, and exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy”.

Maintaining the country’s nuclear fleet of commercial light water reactors and expanding the use of new advanced reactor designs would support continued production of reliable baseload electricity and maintain the USA’s “global leadership” in nuclear power, it said.

Nuclear fusion technology also has the potential to generate electricity with significantly increased safety performance and no radioactive waste, it added.

The development of advanced reactor designs would benefit from a “performance-based, risk-informed, efficient, and cost-effective regulatory framework with defined milestones and the opportunity for applicants to demonstrate progress through Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval,” it said.

Seth Grae, president and CEO of Lightbridge Corporation, yesterday “commended” the US House for the quick passage of H.R. 590, which he said “creates a framework” for licensing advanced nuclear technology. Reston, Virginia-based Lightbridge is developing advanced nuclear fuel technology designed for existing and some new types of reactors “to make them even more economical and efficient”, he added.