U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and three of his colleagues on Thursday urged the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to speed up rulemaking to establish a “technology-inclusive” regulatory framework for advanced nuclear reactors.
Crapo, an Idaho Republican, joined his colleagues Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in signing the letter.
“Advanced nuclear reactors are expected to be smaller, safer, and more efficient,” the four wrote to NRC Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki. “Some even hold the promise of re-using spent nuclear fuel. We expect the NRC’s regulatory framework will account for the innovative features of advanced nuclear technologies. We also expect the NRC’s rulemaking to establish the rules to license and regulate these advanced nuclear technologies in a predictable, efficient, and affordable manner. This will help nuclear innovators successfully deploy advanced nuclear technologies with enhanced performance and reduced risk.”
President Donald Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, of which Crapo was one of the sponsors, in 2019. Intended to streamline the regulatory processes for commercial nuclear power plants, the bill directed the NRC to modernize its licensing rules and establish performance metrics and milestones for licensing and other regulatory actions.
The senators said they support the progress the NRC has made since the law passed but urged the commission to finish its proposed rulemaking plan, which is scheduled to be published in August 2027, ahead of schedule.
“This (date) may not provide adequate time to comply with NEIMA’s statutory deadline, if the NRC encounters unexpected delays,” the senators wrote. “NEIMA’s statutory deadline is intended to serve as a backstop, not a target completion date.”
The letter says more than 50 advanced reactor designs are in different phases of development. One of these is the small modular reactors NuScale Power is developing and plans to build at the U.S. Department of Energy’s desert site west of Idaho Falls.
“To date, Congress has appropriated nearly $40 million, including $15 million in FY 2020 to develop this new rule,” the senators wrote. “The Commission should heed the direction and funding provided by Congress to expedite this rule. This will ensure applicants seeking to deploy advanced reactors this decade can work with an established regulatory framework in a timely and efficient manner.”