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Up & Atom

The US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is requesting feedback on the proposed Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act by Wednesday, February 19. The Committee hopes to introduce the bill by the end of the month.

The act proposes more than 10 new programs to facilitate the creation and innovation of advanced nuclear reactor technology in the private sector, as well as to maintain existing reactors in the United States. Several programs are highlighted below.

The Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program authorizes the secretary of energy to establish a program to support existing plants in the United States. The program would focus on research and development of technologies that will “modernize and improve” vital aspects of the reactors, including reliability, component aging, and safety.

The Research and Development Program directs the secretary to “examine advanced proliferation-resistant and passively safe reactor designs” that are also “economically competitive” and more efficient. The program would focus on “resolv[ing] materials challenges relating to extreme environments,” supporting research into advanced fuels, and developing technologies to manage and reduce nuclear waste.

The Hybrid Energy Systems Research and Development Program authorizes the secretary to “develop nuclear hybrid energy systems” created from at least two “co-located or jointly operated sub-systems of energy generation, energy storage, or other technologies” with the intent of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Suggested focus areas include desalination, carbon capture, and microgrid applications, among others.

The act authorizes the secretary to establish a program “to make available high-assay, low-enriched uranium [HALEU] for use in non-military advanced nuclear reactors.” The goal of the program is to be able to produce “amounts [of HALEU] needed for advanced nuclear reactors by December 31, 2025.” The secretary would determine recipients of the HALEU through a “merit-based, competitive selection process for use in advanced reactor demonstration projects.”

The High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium Transportation Package Research Program is a companion to the HALEU research program, under which the secretary is directed to provide grants to facilitate development of transportation packages to end users such as enrichment facilities and fuel processing facilities.

The act authorizes the secretary to create an Advanced Reactor Demonstration (ARD) program. Morgan Lewis reported on the US Department of Energy’s February 5 RFI/NOI requesting industry feedback on the program.

The act also authorizes the secretary to create a program to promote international nuclear energy cooperation, utilizing such avenues as research and development agreements and existing cooperation commitments (like the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Morgan Lewis will continue to monitor this bill and its progression through the House.