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Bipartisan nuclear package heads to Biden’s desk

By *Andres Picon* | 06/18/2024 06:48 PM EDT

The “ADVANCE Act” was more than a year in the making and aims to
supercharge nuclear energy deployment.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) speaking with
reporters at the Capitol. Carper was one of the nuclear package’s
sponsors. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Senate passed bipartisan nuclear energy legislation Tuesday, sending a
major energy bill to the president’s desk for the first time this Congress.

The “Fire Grants and Safety Act,” S. 870
, which
contains the text of the nuclear bill known as the “ADVANCE Act,” breezed
through the Senate on a 88-2 vote.

Passage of the “Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for
Clean Energy Act” capped off more than a year of outreach and negotiations
among some of Congress’ biggest nuclear energy supporters and marked a rare
show of bipartisanship on major energy legislation.

The “ADVANCE Act” “will strengthen America’s leadership on nuclear energy
and provide climate leadership on the world stage,” Sen. Tom Carper
(D-Del.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and
one of the bill’s architects, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“The United States will now be able to realize the potential of this
carbon-free energy source,” he said.

The bill, a compromise between the Environment and Public Works Committee
and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, cobbles together a number of
lawmakers’ nuclear energy goals.

It aims to streamline the permitting process for advanced reactors, grow
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s workforce, promote the development of
fusion energy technology and improve the process for exporting nuclear
technologies to international markets, among other priorities.

For some lawmakers, final passage Tuesday represented a possible departure
from the federal government’s historical safety-first approach to nuclear
energy development. The bill includes a provision to broaden the scope of
the NRC’s mission statement to ensure licensing does “not unnecessarily
limit” the benefits of nuclear energy to society.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) emerged as one of the legislation’s chief
antagonists. He called for more debate and safeguards before pushing for a
“brand new era” of nuclear energy expansion.