The U.S. Senate approved a bill to make the construction process for nuclear plants faster and more cost-effective, with Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee both touting the measure as a significant step toward a cleaner energy future.

The bipartisan ADVANCE Act, viewed as a win for the nuclear power industry, passed in an 88–2 vote on June 18. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opposed the bill.

The legislation, which raised safety concerns among critics, was bundled with a separate bill that renews support for the U.S. Fire Administration and firefighter grant programs.

Both measures are on their way to the president for approval.

Bipartisan Praise

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) spearheaded the bill and praised its passage as a major victory for both the environment and U.S. energy security.

Mr. Carper, chair of the committee, highlighted the importance of nuclear energy as the nation’s largest source of carbon-free electricity and its potential for job creation.

Upon the president’s signature, the act will “lay the foundation for the safe and successful deployment of the next generation of advanced reactors in the coming decades,” Mr. Carper said in a statement.

Ms. Capito, the committee’s ranking GOP member, attributed the bill’s passage to teamwork and said it will invigorate nuclear technologies.

“This bipartisan piece of legislation will encourage more innovation and investment in nuclear technologies right here on our shores,” she said.

She also said it would help in converting old energy sites for future nuclear projects.


The legislation aims to boost advanced nuclear technology by letting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) lead international regulation, streamline exports, reduce licensing costs, incentivize reactor deployment, and enhance efficiency in fuel cycles and resource management.

The NRC also has to report to Congress within 180 days of enactment on its efforts to simplify and accelerate the environmental review process for nuclear reactor license applications under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

Critics expressed safety concerns before the bill’s passage.

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement on June 17 that the legislation directs the NRC to enforce “only the bare minimum level” of oversight at nuclear facilities.

He expressed concern that this would weaken safety and security oversight, creating a safety risk.

“Passage of this legislation will only increase the danger to people already living downwind of nuclear facilities from a severe accident or terrorist attack, and it will make it even more difficult for communities to prevent risky, experimental reactors from being sited in their midst,” Mr. Lyman said.

The White House hasn’t commented on whether President Joe Biden will sign the legislation. However, White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi showed support for the bill in a post on X on June 18.

“Really appreciate the bipartisan efforts on advanced nuclear,” Mr. Zaidi wrote, while including a video of Mr. Carper’s speech in the Senate in favor of the bill.

“We benefit from more tools in the toolbox as we take on the climate crisis—with the urgency the moment demands.”

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