The House voted Friday to make it easier to deploy advanced nuclear reactors.
The bipartisan bill, approved by voice vote, is aimed at boosting nuclear energy and would modernize the federal government’s approval process for advanced reactors.
The approval comes a day after the Senate did the same. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.
“This legislation will create more certainty for nuclear plant operations, without compromising safety or government oversight, and encourage greater investment for the next generation of nuclear power,” said cosponsors Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Fred Upton, R-Mich. “We look forward to the president signing this important, bipartisan legislation into law.”
The legislation directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a licensing process for advanced reactors that is less prescriptive, allowing for faster approvals.
Advanced reactors are seen as key to improving the fortunes of nuclear energy, which emits no carbon, giving it a level of bipartisan support for its potential to help combat climate change.
“It’s heartening to again see Congress step up to the plate in a big bipartisan way to bolster advanced nuclear technologies that are major part of the future of U.S. and global clean and reliable power,” said Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath, a conservative group that supports nuclear energy. “Bringing any new energy technology into the marketplace is daunting, and that’s doubly-true for heavily regulated industries like nuclear.”
The smaller advanced reactors, still in the development phase, are supposed to be cheaper to operate and safer because they produce less waste.
“I am proud to have worked with this bipartisan group on this bill, which will give our nuclear regulator the flexibility it needs to bring new, safe reactors online to produce carbon-free energy,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill, which was introduced by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
The nuclear industry got more help on Friday, when the Energy Department announced a plan to purchase power from advanced reactors designed by NuScale Power.
The Energy Department said it will buy power from two of 12 advanced nuclear reactors being built by utility Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems at the site of the Idaho National Laboratory.
The agreement stipulates that one of the reactors will be used for research and development and another for power needed by the lab, which is under the purview of the Energy Department.