President Donald Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act into law Monday. The bill, which is meant to streamline regulatory processes for commercial nuclear power plants, received support from both the public and private nuclear energy sector.
The bill directs the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the independent federal agency that regulates nuclear energy operations, to modernize its licensing rules.
The law establishes new NRC budget and fee structures and a revised licensing framework for advanced next generation nuclear reactors.
“This legislation establishes a more equitable and transparent funding structure which will benefit all operating reactors and future licensees,” said Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based nuclear technology policy organization.
Additionally, the bill directs the NRC to improve the efficiency of uranium regulation and disposal.
For Idaho National Laboratory, the new regulations should increase the speed and affordability at which INL nuclear research can move from the lab to the commercial market.
An INL spokesperson did not respond to request for comment by press time.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch supported the bill, saying it will make nuclear technology development and commercialization cheaper, enabling more of INL’s research to reach the market, according to a U.S. Senate news release.
“This bipartisan measure is important for Idaho because it will help ensure that the work being done at the Idaho National Lab will have a path through to the commercial market,” Crapo said in the release. “NEIMA pushes the NRC to modernize so that it has the ability to license advanced reactors in a safe, timely, and transparent manner.”
The new regulations won’t impact reactors currently in the licensing process, such as NuScale, an Oregon-based company that has designed and is developing a new modular light water reactor.
Although NuScale won’t benefit from the new regulations, the company has watched and been supportive of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, said Chris Colbert, NuScale’s chief strategy officer.
“We think we would’ve clearly benefited from it when we started off several years ago,” he said.
The legislation will help speed up and decrease the cost of the 42-month licensing process for a nuclear reactor, Colbert said.
Also, it will provide further certainty for reactors to complete the application, as they can now meet intermediate — rather than “all-or-nothing” — progress goals, he said.