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Senate passes legislation streamlining licensing process for nuclear reactors.

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The U.S. Senate passed legislation Tuesday which adjusts the NRC’s role in the advancement of nuclear power in the United States by streamlining the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing process for reactor construction.

“By modernizing the licensing and approval processes at the NRC, the legislation could potentially accelerate the design and domestic commercialization of standardized reactors to address various applications”, the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum wrote in a May press release.

The bill passed the House and Senate with broad, bipartisan support and is now on its way to President Biden’s desk to become law.

To make reactor construction more achievable, the bill reduces the fees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission charges to developers while accelerating the licensing process for new reactors and staffing.

The bill has its critics, however.

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a statement Tuesday raising concerns that the NRC’s diminished safety oversight authority may lead to environmental or financial disaster.

“Just as lax regulation by the FAA—an agency already burdened by conflicts of interests—can lead to a catastrophic failure of an aircraft, a compromised NRC could lead to a catastrophic reactor meltdown impacting an entire region for a generation,” said Edwin Lyman, the director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Nuclear meltdowns have in years past led to annihilation of entire cities, as in the Chernobyl disaster.

But Chernobyl was an extraordinary circumstance and less deadly than most industrial accidents, according to experts.

“Even the worst possible accident at a nuclear power plant — the complete meltdown and burnup of its radioactive fuel — was yet far less destructive than other major industrial accidents across the past century,” wrote Richard Rhodes, an energy scholar and Pulitzer Prize winner.

Other critics of the bill worry that it’s not enough to address the US’ lagging nuclear industry, which has been overtaken as the global leader by China, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

The ITIF worries that the revitalized mission for the NRC wont cut it.

“The United States needs to develop a coherent national strategy and whole-of-government approach to reanimating the deployment of modern nuclear reactor technology,” the ITIF said in a report.

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