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Published on June 20, 2024
Senate Charges into Atomic Future, Biphasic ADVANCE Act Zooms to President's Desk with Overwhelming SupportSource: Youtube/EPW GOP

The United States Senate has just catapulted the country deeper into the nuclear age, with a near-unanimous vote that sends the bipartisan-designed ADVANCE Act to the president's desk. Crafted by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), joined by Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the legislation aims to revitalize nuclear energy stateside. The bill comes packaged within the larger Fire Grants and Safety Act (S.870) and passed with a commanding 88-2 vote, according to an Environment and Public Works committee press release.

Ranking member Capito strongly advocated, stating "Today, we sent the ADVANCE Act to the president's desk because Congress worked together to recognize the importance of nuclear energy to America’s future and got the job done." The legislative push for the act aimed to streamline innovation and investment in nuclear technologies, reinvigorating a sector that has been looking for a lifeline amidst the changing energy landscape. By redirecting sites of past fossil-fuel power for future nuclear projects, the act also puts a competitive foot forward in reshaping the terrain of American energy.

The ADVANCE Act isn't just a shot in the arm for nuclear energy; it's a multipronged approach retooled for the modern world. Chairman Carper explained the leg-up it represents: "The ADVANCE Act will provide the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the tools and workforce it needs to review new nuclear technologies efficiently," and he highlighted the dual goal of preserving safety alongside generating thousands of job opportunities, as per Environment and Public Works.

Senators herald the act as a bipartisan success story; it bolsters the future of nuclear energy that is emission-free, with Senator Whitehouse emphasizing its planetary benefits: "Advancing the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors is a win for the planet, and passage of this toast the next step in bringing new, safe reactors online." From establishing quicker licensing pathways for microreactors to encouraging advanced manufacturing techniques for nuclear builds, the ADVANCE Act sets the stage for a nuclear renaissance while preserving existing nuclear infrastructure.

Central to the law is the empowerment of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which finds itself with a mandate to stay at the forefront of the international narrative around advanced nuclear regulations. In doing so, it will both reinforce American leadership in nuclear energy and tighten the grip on nuclear non-proliferation standards. Inside the country, the act aims to cut through expensive red tape, offering regulatory cost reductions for entities championing advanced nuclear reactor technologies and incentivizing them with a prize for successful next-gen deployments.

While the ADVANCE Act was shaped by bipartisan hands, its real test starts upon receipt of the president's signature. With that final action completed, it will graduate from policy to practice, and America will hinge expectations on the promise of a cleaner, versatile, and future-forward nuclear energy landscape.