The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) supports the proposed Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act (NERDA) that was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. In early March, this bipartisan bill passed the Energy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. It is expected to go before the full committee soon. NIA appreciates the leadership by cosponsors, Representative Conor Lamb (PA) and Representative Dan Newhouse (WA), as well as the efforts of the subcommittee.
If passed, NERDA will provide critical support for advanced nuclear developers as well as the broader nuclear industry. Among other provisions, NERDA authorizes and appropriates:
- An advanced nuclear demonstration program aiming to demonstrate two concepts by 2027 and identify up to five more
- A fuel cycle R&D program for both HALEU and used nuclear fuel
- Workforce development programs, including university support
Critically, NERDA also authorizes appropriations for fiscal years 2021-2025 for the Department of Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor (VTR). This critical project will provide a key testing ground for industry to evaluate advanced nuclear technologies and materials. It will also support the domestic nuclear supply chain during construction and operation.
This proposal by the House of Representatives complements ongoing legislative activities in the Senate. In the Senate, provisions from two bills, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) and the Nuclear Energy Renewal Act (NERA), have made it into a broader energy package, the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA). AEIA passed out of committee in February 2020 and is currently under consideration by the full Senate. Together, NERDA and AEIA, as well as precursor bills NELA and NERA, are an opportunity for legislative progress towards enabling advanced nuclear to contribute to climate mitigation.
NIA strongly supports these continuing Congressional efforts to support American nuclear innovation. Recently passed legislation is already reducing regulatory barriers and supporting businesses. The Nuclear Energy Innovation Modernization Act, passed in December 2018, has enhanced the NRC’s capability to efficiently and thoroughly reviewed advanced nuclear designs. The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, passed in September 2018, accelerated nuclear technology development through directives to DOE and support for industry vendors.