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Nuclear Energy Institute
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Senate Panel Approves Two Measures to Advance Development of Small Reactors

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today approved a pair of legislative proposals that would enhance the nuclear energy industry’s ability to meet U.S. energy and environmental needs. The Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S.2812) sponsored by committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) directs the Secretary of Energy to implement programs to develop and demonstrate two small modular reactor designs. This public-private, cost-shared program would facilitate the design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of two modular reactor designs by the end of 2017 and the licensing of the reactors by the end of 2020. The Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2009 (S.2052) , championed by the same senators, requires the Secretary of Energy to carry out a research, development and demonstration program to reduce manufacturing and construction costs of reactor systems, including small-scale reactors. The measure authorizes a total of $2.5 billion over a five-year period for this effort. Following is a statement from Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president of governmental affairs, on the committee’s action.

“The committee’s approval of these two measures is exciting news.

“Small reactor technology has the potential to help America remove carbon from the electric, transport and industrial sectors. It provides energy companies and other users with a broader array of energy options to suit their specific situations with regard to infrastructure and financing capabilities, market needs and other variables. The Nuclear Power 2021 program is modeled on a cost-shared partnership approach that has functioned effectively for the siting, design and licensing of larger advanced-design reactors, and industry is confident it can help address the unique development needs associated with small reactor designs whose major components and systems can be built in a factory environment and shipped directly to a plant site.

“The Research Initiative Improvement Act, which also embodies the public-private partnership model, is another important part of a comprehensive energy policy. By focusing federal research support on programs to reduce the cost of plant licensing and construction, and manufacturing of plant components, this measure can accelerate the construction of small, modular reactors to complement other initiatives taken in the energy sector to reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency and meet rising electricity demand.

“NEI thanks Chairman Bingaman and Senators Murkowski and Udall for their leadership in proposing these bills, and we pledge to work with members of Congress toward their enactment.”