This bill — the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) — would establish robust public-private partnerships between leading U.S. research institutions and industry innovators. It’d aim to facilitate a path to market for advanced reactors by allowing the federal government to be an early adopter of commercialized technologies, demonstrating innovative concepts in partnership with the private sector, providing necessary scientific research facilities, breaking down fuel availability barriers, and training the next generation of nuclear scientists.
Authorization of Long-Term Power Purchase Agreements
Currently, nuclear energy is at a disadvantage when competing for federal power purchase agreements (PPA) due to a law limiting PPAs to 10 years. Since initial capital costs for nuclear reactors are paid for over a period beyond 10 years, 10-year PPAs don’t work for nuclear projects. Thus, this bill would update the law to extend federal PPAs’ maximum length from 10 to 40 years.
Long-Term Nuclear Power Purchase Agreement Pilot Program
This section of the bill would establish a pilot program for the federal government to enter into a federal nuclear PPA exceeding 10 years. This would allow the federal government to partner with industry to be an early adopter of new technologies that increase electric reliability and resilience, especially for grid assets that are critical to U.S. national security.
Advanced Nuclear Reactor Research and Development Goals
This section of the bill would direct the Dept. of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate advanced reactors with the private sector and to establish specific goals in this area. DOE would be required to demonstrate two advanced reactor concepts by 2025, and another two to five concepts by 2035. These demonstrations could include reactors that develop electricity or that provide process heat, off-grid energy, or backup power. This would send a strong signal that the U.S. is re-establishing itself as a global leader in nuclear technology and help the U.S. nuclear industry compete with state-owned or state-sponsored developers in rival nations, especially China and Russia. It’d facilitate collaboration between the federal government, National Labs, and private industry.
Nuclear Energy Strategic Plan
This section of the bill would require DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy to develop a 10-year strategic plan that supports advanced nuclear R&D goals that will foster breakthrough innovation to help advanced nuclear reactors reach the market. This would set a cohesive long-term strategic for the direction of U.S. nuclear science and engineering R&D policy across administrations.
Versatile, Reactor-Based Fast Neutron Science
This section of the bill would direct DOE to construct a fast neutron-capable research facility, which is needed to test important reaction components, demonstrate such facilities’ safe and reliable operation, and ultimately license advanced reactor concepts. Currently, the only machines capable of producing a fast neutron spectrum are in Russia and China.
Advanced Nuclear Fuel Security Programs
This section of the bill would provide a minimum amount of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to U.S. developers until a long-term domestic supply is developed. It’d also facilitate the development of HALEU-appropriate transportation equipment. HALEU is needed for many advanced reactors, so a healthy domestic uranium mining, enrichment, and fuel fabrication capability that meets industry needs is a prerequisite for U.S. nuclear leadership.
University Nuclear Leadership Program
The section of the bill would create a university nuclear leadership program to develop a world-class, highly-skilled domestic workforce to develop, regulate, and safeguard the next generation of advanced reactors. These workers would be needed for the nuclear energy industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.