RELEASE: Congress Passes the ADVANCE Act, Near Unanimous Support for a New Generation of Nuclear Energy Plants

WASHINGTON, DC, June 19 – After more than a year of negotiations, Congress approved the ADVANCE Act (Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy) yesterday, and sent it to President Biden for signature. The Breakthrough Institute applauds the action, which came after months of work by the Institute, partner organizations, members of Congress, and members of the public.

The bill will give the Nuclear Regulatory Commission more flexibility to hire the staff it needs for a vastly increased pace of license applications. It will reduce fees for some applicants, require more timely processing of applications, facilitate licensing at retiring coal plants, and require work by the NRC to facilitate the export of advanced reactor technology.

Significantly, it will require the agency to update its mission statement so it does not “unnecessarily limit” the use of nuclear energy or the benefits it could provide for society.

The new direction for the NRC more closely aligns its goals with the Atomic Energy Act, which declared that developing nuclear energy was essential for the general welfare. When the Atomic Energy Act was passed, 70 years ago, “general welfare” meant primarily human comfort and prosperity. Today, there is also a climate imperative.

The change in the NRC’s mission is an implicit recognition that the fossil fuels that nuclear electric plants can replace produce a substantial portion of the air pollution that causes 200,000 excess deaths a year in the United States, and millions more worldwide. Advanced nuclear energy is the safe, zero-carbon energy solution that America needs. But time is running out. The United States needs to modernize its policies and regulations to reflect the real state of nuclear technology today, or we risk falling behind as a global leader in nuclear energy.

Ted Nordhaus, founder and executive director of the Breakthrough Institute, said, “for decades the NRC has tried to regulate to make risk from nuclear energy as close to zero as possible, but has failed to consider of the cost to the environment, public health, energy security, or prosperity of not building and operating nuclear energy plants. This reduces rather than improves public health and safety. No other regulator in the United States takes a similar approach.”

“But with passage of the ADVANCE bill, Congress is telling the regulators that public benefits are and have always been part of their mission.”

The bill passed the Senate 88-2 on Tuesday (6/18), having passed the House in May by a vote of 393-13.

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Media Contact:

Adam Stein, Director of Nuclear Energy Innovation