A bill directing the U.S. Department of Energy to work with the private sector to develop advanced nuclear reactors more quickly passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday and now heads to the president’s desk.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is the lead sponsor of the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, and co-sponsors include a mix of Democrats and Republicans, including Idaho Republican Jim Risch, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Crapo said the bill “will eliminate barriers to innovation within the private sector and strengthen collaboration with our national labs to maintain American preeminence in nuclear energy,” and that the vote shows Congress’ “strong bipartisan commitment” to nuclear power.
Among its numerous provisions, the bill directs the Department of Energy to open its research infrastructure to national laboratories, academia and the private sector. It creates a program where DOE and national laboratories will support the testing and demonstration of reactor concepts that are proposed and funded by private companies. It calls for more collaboration between the DOE and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And it sets planning goals for the Department of Energy designed to speed up the development of advanced reactors.
The bill passed the Senate in March, and passed the House on a voice vote Thursday.
“Today’s House vote brings us one step closer to advancing innovative partnerships that will drive the next generation of reliable, clean nuclear power,” Risch said in a statement. “As home to the Idaho National Lab, our nation’s nuclear energy lab, Idaho is a natural leader in this public-private endeavor and I will continue to support INL’s leadership as they develop advanced nuclear technology.”
Idaho National Laboratory has been discussed as a possible hub for advanced reactors in the near future. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing a proposal to build 12 small modular reactors at INL’s desert site west of Idaho Falls.