H.R. 4979, Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016

H.R. 4979

Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016

Sponsor
Rep. Bob Latta

Date
September 12, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On­­­­ Monday, September 12, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4979, the Advantaged Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 4979 was introduced on April 18, 2016, by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH) and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The Committee on Energy and Commerce ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on May 18, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4979 requires the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to collaborate to provide certainty for the development of advanced nuclear technology.

Specifically, the legislation directs DOE and NRC to enter into a memorandum of understanding to ensure technical expertise is maintained, modeling and simulation is utilized and DOE facilities are available to the NRC, as needed. In addition, NRC is required to report to Congress on existing federal activities related to testing and demonstrating advanced reactors with significant design improvements over existing commercial reactors and plan for establishing a framework for licensing such reactors. DOE must report to Congress on the Department’s capabilities to authorize, host, and oversee privately proposed and funded experimental reactors.

Finally, the bill authorizes the appropriations of amounts to the NRC for the development of a regulatory infrastructure for advanced nuclear reactor technologies is not subject to statutory “fee recovery” requirements.

Background

The United States in the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity. There are currently 99 nuclear reactors in 30 states producing 798 billion kWh, resulting in 19% of total electrical output. Five new units are under construction and expected to come online by 2021. Lower gas prices since 2009 have put the economic viability of some existing reactors and proposed projects in doubt.[1]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses, inspects, and regulates the use of radioactive materials at civilian facilities across the country, including nuclear reactors.[2] Within the Department of Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy works to advance nuclear power through the development of technologies, improvements, sustainable fuel cells, and understanding and minimizing risk.[3]

Engineers, entrepreneurs, and investors are working to commercialize a new generation of innovative and advanced nuclear reactors. Research and development is being done with advanced reactors to broaden the use of coolants from water to molten salt, liquid metal, and some gases. In addition, advanced reactors can be “walk away safe”, not requiring an operator to shut down operations, and will use enriched and depleted uranium, or used nuclear fuel.[4]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “Congress must look to the future of the nuclear industry, and this bill provides the certainty needed for continued private sector innovation, while also providing the NRC a path to safely regulate advanced nuclear technologies.”[5]

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[1] See http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/usa-nuclear-power.aspx
[2] See http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc.html
[3] See http://energy.gov/ne/mission
[4] See http://www.thirdway.org/report/the-advanced-nuclear-industry
[5] See Rep. Latta’s press release, “Latta and McNerney Introduce Legislation Regarding Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology” April 18, 2016.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 4979 would cost $1 million in 2017, subject to the availability of appropriated funds. That estimate does not include additional costs that the NRC might incur to develop a licensing framework for advanced reactors pursuant to the plan under the bill, which CBO estimates could range between $5 and $10 million annually over several years. Under current law, any such funding provided in future years would be largely offset by fees charged to the nuclear industry. CBO further estimates that H.R. 4979 would not affect direct spending or revenues, therefore pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply, and enacting H.R. 4979 would not increase net direct spending on on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.