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House passes nuclear licensing overhaul bill

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Feb 28, 2024
Small modular reactor being built in China

A small modular reactor under construction in China. Photo: Luo Yunfei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

The House passed its nuclear licensing overhaul bill, setting up a negotiation on one of the few energy policy areas with bipartisan deal potential.

Why it matters: The industry-backed legislation would attempt to make it easier to approve the coming generation of small modular reactors.

Driving the news: The Atomic Energy Advancement Act passed 365-36.

  • The "no" votes were primarily progressives, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Jared Huffman, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamie Raskin. Rep. Marcy Kaptur voted present.
  • It would reduce Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing fees for SMRs and move to bolster the agency's workforce.

Between the lines: The Senate's version of this bill — the ADVANCE Act —got dropped from the NDAA because House lawmakers felt like they hadn't weighed in yet.

  • This vote lets them move forward with a negotiation resembling the mythical "regular order" and potentially find a legislative vehicle for a compromise later in the year.

What we're watching: There are relatively minor differences between the two bills.

  • The House package would more directly prod the NRC to overhaul its licensing procedures for advanced reactors and require a rulemaking to speed up National Environmental Policy Act reviews.
  • It also lacks a provision from the Senate legislation that would authorize money to clean up abandoned mines on tribal lands (which have historically been impacted by uranium mining).
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