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Senate Passes Faster Nuclear Capacity Expansion Bill

The U.S. Senate this week passed a bill that aims to speed up the construction of new nuclear power generation capacity.

“In a major victory for our climate and American energy security, the U.S. Senate has passed the ADVANCE Act with overwhelming, bipartisan support,” said the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Democrat Tom Carper, as quoted by Reuters.

Nuclear power is reemerging in the public discourse about the energy transition because of its emissions-free status as an energy source, which also provides baseload generation, unlike wind and solar.

The news of the nuclear advancement bill comes on the heels of a report showing that the United States is likely 10 to 15 years behind China in deploying fourth-generation nuclear reactors at scale, as Chinese authorities are strongly backing the domestic industry with policies and financing.

The report, by Washington-based research institute Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, China currently has 27 new nuclear reactors under construction and plans to build a total of 150 new nuclear reactors between 2020 and 2035. The average construction timeline for each reactor is about seven years, far faster than for most other nations.

The United States, meanwhile, has hardly built any nuclear reactors in the past decade. It also lacks what the ITIF calls “a coherent national strategy and a “whole-of-government” approach” that would give it a chance to once again become a leader in the nuclear space.

The ADVANCE Act could help this happen but it will take a while and require additional support from the government in the form of easier permit procedures. The complexity of the permitting process is one reason nuclear in the U.S. has stalled recently, along with soaring costs in the face of cheaper alternatives such as natural gas. This has pushed investors away from nuclear, complicating the situation further.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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