- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
- senate Committees
- The house has not voted
Committee on Energy and CommerceIntroducedMarch 14th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 1760?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 1760
In-Depth: Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to create a public-private partnership to develop and deploy high-assay low-enriched uranium (HA-LEU) for domestic commercial use. In remarks on the floor when this legislation was being considered by the House in the 115th Congress in December 2018, Rep. Flores said:
“[This legislation] will set the stage for powering electricity in the future in a green manner by allowing for the development of those new-generation reactors, but we have to have the fuel to do it. This bill… does that… It is a bipartisan solution to address a real need to generate electricity, always-on, baseload electricity, in a zero-emissions manner.”
After the House passed this legislation by a voice vote last Congress, Rep. Flores said:
"American innovators are developing the next generation of nuclear reactors so that our nation can continue to capitalize on nuclear power’s potential as a clean, efficient and reliable source of energy. The bipartisan Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Act establishes a public-private solution to develop, manufacture and transport the next generation fuels to power the advanced nuclear reactors of tomorrow. These important advancements will ensure that zero-emission nuclear power continues to provide a meaningful portion of our country’s ‘always-on, baseload’ electricity used in our homes and businesses. I urge the Senate to pass this important, bipartisan bill so that we can power our 21st century economy in an environmentally friendly way for hardworking American families."
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) supported this legislation in the 115th Congress. Its Vice President of Governmental Affairs,, Beverly Marshall, said:
“[T]he Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Act signifies continued confidence in the development of the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors. By creating a program that will make HALEU available for commercial use, we are making an important investment in the globally competitive race to design and deploy advanced reactor technology.”
Over the last few years, the U.S. nuclear power industry has faced stiff competition from cheap natural gas and renewable energy. In a September 2018 report, the MIT Energy Initiative suggested that the reason new nuclear builds have stagnated is that the cost of construction is too high, not necessarily that reactor technology isn't developed enough. Nuclear power has struggled under the sheer expense of building reactors and complying with regulation, not to mention general public concern about safety and hazardous waste.
The report argued that those factors are the key reasons for nuclear power’s lack of significant new expansion in recent decades. However, there is still political support for nuclear energy, because it's reliable, long-lived, and can produce massive amounts of power with no direct carbon emissions.
Of Note: Most nuclear reactors currently in use are very similar in nature and operate on fuel that’s generally enriched below 5%. The next generation of advanced nuclear reactors under development, however, vary in size and operation. They will also require flexibility and efficiencies from an advanced fuel, known as “high-assay, low-enriched uranium, or HA-LEU.” This fuel is enriched at higher levels than what is available in the current commercial market, specifically between 5-20%. Currently, commercial nuclear fuel suppliers, with the possible exception of Russia, can only produce uranium enriched to 5%. Globally, there are 56 nuclear reactors under construction, and more than half of those are being built by either the Russians or the Chinese.
A March 2017 survey of 18 advanced reactor developers based in the U.S. found that the lack of availability of advanced fuels is the foremost factor that would impede the development and deployment of advanced reactor technologies.
- Sponsoring Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) Press Release (115th Congress)
- CBO Cost Estimate (115th Congress)
- Congressional Record (115th Congress)
- Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Letter (In Favor, 115th Congress)
- Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Press Release (In Favor, 115th Congress)
- MIT Energy Initiative (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / surasak petchang)