U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo

Sen. Mike Crapo

A bill meant to speed up the development of advanced nuclear reactors is now law.

President Donald Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act on Friday. The bill, which was sponsored by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group including Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, directs the U.S. Department of Energy to open its research infrastructure to national laboratories, academia and the private sector.

The bill also 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. And it sets planning goals for the DOE designed to speed up the development of advanced reactors, giving Energy Secretary Rick Perry 180 days to submit a report assessing his department’s ability to host and operate advanced reactors at national labs and other sites. It also calls on him to submit two 10-year budget plans for nuclear research and development.

It passed the Senate in March and the House in mid-September.

“The bill has been the result of years of bipartisan collaboration and work to remove barriers to the development of technologies that allow for advanced and more efficient use of nuclear energy,” Crapo wrote in a column last week.

“This bill provides the women and men at INL and our other national labs additional capabilities for critical testing and collaboration with the private sector to maintain U.S. eminence in the future of nuclear energy,” he wrote. “NEICA also sends a clear message to investors and innovators to continue to pursue and invest in advanced nuclear technology in the U.S.”

INL 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 to help provide power to Idaho Falls and to parts of Utah through Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. NuScale, the company behind this project, awarded the engineering contract for the reactors last week.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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