On January 14, 2019, President Donald Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) into law. Both the public and private nuclear energy sector supported the bill, which is intended to streamline regulatory processes for commercial nuclear power plants.
In particular, the bill directs the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to modernize its licensing rules. NRC is an independent federal agency that regulates nuclear energy operations.
The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act establishes new NRC budget and fees structures and a revised licensing framework for advanced next generation nuclear reactors.
“This legislation establishes a more equitable and transparent funding structure which will benefit all operating reactors and future licenses,” said Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maria Korsnick.
In addition, the bill directs the NRC to improve the efficiency of uranium regulation and disposal.
The new regulations are expected to increase the speed and affordability at which nuclear research at the Idaho National Laboratory can move from the lab to the commercial market. According to a U.S. Senate news release, the legislation is also anticipated to make nuclear technology development and commercialization cheaper, enabling more of INL’s research to reach the market.
“This bipartisan measure is important for Idaho because it will help ensure that the work being done at the Idaho National Lab will have a path through to the commercial market,” said Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho. “NEIMA pushes the NRC to modernize so that it has the ability to license advanced reactors in a safe, timely and transparent manner.”
The new regulations will not impact reactors that are currently in the licensing process, such as NuScale, which is an Oregon-based company that has designed and is developing a new modular light water reactor. However, the legislation is expected to help speed up and decrease the cost of the 42-month licensing process for a nuclear reactor. It is also expected to provide additional clarity for reactors to complete the application.
The Nuclear Energy and Modernization Act, Public Law 115-439, can be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/512.