World Nuclear News: Bill Gates 'thrilled' by legislative boost for nuclear

The Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), bipartisan draft legislation which aims to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear technologies and re-establish US leadership in nuclear energy has been re-introduced to the US Senate.

NELA was submitted on 27 March by a group of 15 senators led by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It was previously introduced to the Senate in September 2018 and was one of several bipartisan bills supporting advanced nuclear innovation to be considered by the 115th US Congress, which ended on 2 January. One of those bills - the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act, which modernises US nuclear regulation and supports the establishment of a licensing framework for next-generation advanced reactors - became law on 14 January.

"Yesterday, a bipartisan group of leaders in the US Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which establishes an ambitious plan to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies," Bill Gates, the technologist, business leader, and philanthropist, tweeted, with a link to Murkowski's announcement. "I can't overstate how important this is," he said.

"To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to reach near-zero emissions on all the things that drive it - agriculture, electricity, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings - by investing in innovation across all sectors while deploying low cost renewables.

"Nuclear energy is one of these critical technologies. It's ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that's available 24 hours a day.

"I'm thrilled that senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to support advanced nuclear. This is exactly the kind of leadership our country needs to both solve the climate challenge and reassert our leadership in this important industry," he said.

In his 2018 year-end blog, Gates, who co-founded the Microsoft Corp and chairs the TerraPower LLC nuclear energy venture, gave notice that he plans this year to "speak out more" about how the USA needs to regain its leading role in nuclear power research.

The draft bill was formally introduced to Senate by Murkowski on behalf of herself and Senators Cory Booker, James Risch, Joe Manchin, Mike Crapo, Lamar Alexander, Sheldon Whitehouse, Cory Gardner, Chris Coons, Dan Sullivan, Tammy Duckworth, Lindsay Graham, Michael Bennet, Shelley Moore Capito, and Rob Portman. It directs the US Secretary of Energy "to establish advanced nuclear goals, provide for a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source, make available high-assay, low-enriched uranium for research, development, and demonstration of advanced nuclear reactor concepts, and for other purposes".

It includes the authorisation of long-term power purchase agreements; the establishment of a long-term nuclear power purchase agreement pilot programme; advanced nuclear reactor research and development goals; a nuclear energy strategic plan; a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source; advanced nuclear fuel security programmes; and a university nuclear leadership programme.

Advanced reactors are the next generation of breakthrough nuclear technologies that will offer significant advantages for power generation, the senators said. "Although the United States invented and commercialised nuclear power, our leadership has slipped, creating the need for new policies that encourage opportunities for the industry to design and deploy advanced reactor concepts. NELA will help facilitate the path to market for advanced reactors by allowing the federal government to be an early adopter of commercialised technologies; providing for needed scientific research facilities; demonstrating advanced reactor concepts; breaking down fuel availability barriers when the market cannot; and training the next generation of nuclear scientists."

Source: World Nuclear News