Build Nuclear Now
Advanced nuclear energy is the safe, zero-carbon energy solution that America needs. But time is running out. America’s policies and regulations must reflect the needs of this technology or we risk falling behind as a global leader in nuclear energy.
The Build Nuclear Now campaign is prioritizing specific policy solutions we can tackle now — essential to license and deploy new advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S. by 2030.
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License Advanced Reactors
Advanced Reactors Require a Modern Regulatory Agency
- Since its founding in 1975, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not licensed a new reactor design that was subsequently built. Commercializing a new generation of nuclear energy technologies that are radically safe, cheap to build, and necessary to meet the nation’s energy security needs and climate commitments will require a modern regulatory agency and licensing process.
- Nuclear energy has historically proven to be among the safest energy technologies ever invented. Despite that record, current regulations could require advanced reactors to limit radiation exposure to levels well below naturally occurring background levels. As a result, it can take a decade and a billion dollars simply to license a new, safer nuclear reactor.
- Current NRC regulations, designed for large light water reactors developed over 50 years ago, regulate every nut, bolt, weld, pump, pipe and concrete structure in a nuclear power plant. Many of these rules are incompatible with new, advanced, smaller reactors that often have few moving parts, use radically different coolants, can operate at atmospheric pressure, and do not utilize large steel or concrete structures.
- Recognizing the need for a modern regulatory framework for advanced reactors, Congress passed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) in 2019, directing the NRC to create a new licensing pathway for the innovation and commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors, known as Part 53. But that new pathway will not be available in time for use by the first wave of advanced reactor applicants. A recent survey of advanced reactor developers found that most would not use the draft Part 53 rule, as it offered little improvement over the old rules and was, in some cases, even more cumbersome. As a result, advanced nuclear developers still do not have a clear roadmap for how to license their reactors or how regulators at the NRC will evaluate their license applications, even as Congress has directed the first-moving developers to commercialize advanced reactors by 2028.
With advanced nuclear energy, the U.S. can achieve true energy security independent from the global fossil fuel markets driving global instability.
Our ability to develop a homegrown industry with robust supply chains will provide us the opportunity of becoming a global leader in producing safe, clean, carbon-free energy.
Secure Advanced Nuclear Fuels
Advanced Nuclear Fuels are Critical
- The next generation of advanced nuclear reactors will require advanced fuels, specifically high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU). This fuel type makes it possible to power smaller reactors and will require less refueling than previous generations, making HALEU overall more efficient and safer.
- Unfortunately, the United States does not have the infrastructure in place to supply commercial levels of HALEU to advanced reactor developers. The world’s only viable commercial supplier of HALEU is Russia, who the United States cannot rely on to provide this essential resource.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) has introduced a program intended to stimulate the domestic development of a commercial HALEU supply chain in the US, but funding has been inadequate and progress has been slow. We must invest in our domestic capacity to manufacture and supply this fuel for ourselves.
- The reliance on HALEU sourced from Russia also means that the United States will not be able to fuel the first set of advanced reactors funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). Keeping these reactors on schedule will require the downblending of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from the US government’s stockpile.
“Taking bold action to invest in our supply chains means America will reap the tremendous opportunities that tackling climate change presents to kickstart domestic manufacturing and help secure our national, economic, and energy security.”
Promote Global Exports of Advanced Nuclear
Advanced Nuclear Energy will establish the United States as a global leader in clean energy.
- Establishing the advanced nuclear energy industry in America is great for our own energy security and necessary on any path toward net-zero, but also provides an opportunity to export this technology to allies around the world. This multi-billion dollar market can be shaped by scientists, engineers, and experts aligned with American values.
- With advanced nuclear energy, the US and its allies can achieve true energy security independent from the global fossil fuel markets driving global instability. Our ability to develop a homegrown industry with robust supply chains will provide us the opportunity of becoming a global leader in producing safe, clean, carbon-free energy.
- At the same time, efforts by Russia and China to export their nuclear technologies pose challenges to our geopolitical interests and democratic values. Exporting flexible, reliable, and safer US advanced reactors globally will enable us to establish and assert our leadership and international presence in this critical market.
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