Energy Updates

Advancing Nuclear Power: US Congress Passes Bill with CRI Amendment

by David T. Stevenson, Director

March 22, 2024



A chance encounter with US Senator Tom Carper at the Wilmington train station in Delaware has led to a significant funding award for the first company to secure a license for a groundbreaking "nuclear reactor" fueled by reprocessed nuclear waste.


It all began the day after I returned from a conference where retired nuclear engineers passionately discussed the potential of such a reactor. Coincidentally, I found myself at the train station, bound for New York, while Senator Carper was on his way to DC. As a leading advocate for nuclear energy and the head of the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works (EPW), Senator Carper's interest was piqued when I shared the idea of reusing nuclear waste and connected me with his staff at the EPW Committee. As a result, I helped draft the amendment to Senator Carper's Atomic Energy Advancement Act.


Support for this idea is a no-brainer!


Currently, nuclear fuel rods go into a reactor for only 18 to 24 months and retain 96% of their potential energy when pulled out and before they are put into onsite storage indefinitely.


Efforts to build permanent storage facilities have failed, and the rods need to be securely stored for up to half a million years. While France has embraced reprocessing fuel rods for reuse, the US has passed on this option. However, the emergence of new technology presents a game-changing opportunity: placing "reprocessed fuel rods" into higher temperature reactors, with refueling required only once every 30 years.


This approach of continued recycling would reduce waste by 95% and remove dangerous components, reducing the storage duration to approximately 100 years, compared to the daunting half-million-year prospect.


Astoundingly, our current pile of waste rods contains enough energy to power the entire US electric grid for about 200 years!


Meanwhile, Senator Carper's EPW Committee had been working on a bill to accelerate the approval of new nuclear power plants. NOTE: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) replaced the Atomic Energy Commission almost 50 years ago and only approved two new nuclear power plants during that period. 


The Senator's Atomic Energy Advancement Act aims to expedite the approval process for new nuclear power plants using modern technology. The Act includes requirements for the NRC to streamline approvals, report progress to Congress, and authorize additional staff. Currently, every new project is considered unique and requires full, comprehensive, and time-consuming Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).


New technology using Small Modular Reactors (SMR) offers identical factory-produced reactors that would only need full, comprehensive, and time-consuming EIS analysis once.


By design, SMRs are inherently safer than older power plants. These pioneering reactors could be strategically built at secure, remote federal sites. Special incentives would be offered for SMRs placed at existing nuclear power plant sites, at brownfields, and at closed fossil fuel plants.


The Senator's bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (87-13 in the Senate and 365-36 in the House).


In the wake of this monumental achievement, I am deeply grateful to Senator Carper for his unwavering leadership and commitment.


The Department of Energy has already identified 130 viable sites, predominantly former coal-fired power plants, as possible SMR locations. The sites have existing electric substations and transmission lines, easing power distribution into regional electric grids, often with experienced power station technicians.


Nuclear power is reliable, affordable, safe, and has no carbon dioxide or air pollution emissions.


Thank you, Senator Carper!