Bipartisan nuclear package heads to Biden’s desk

By Andres Picon | 06/18/2024 06:48 PM EDT

The “ADVANCE Act” was more than a year in the making and aims to supercharge nuclear energy deployment.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) speaking with reporters at the Capitol. Carper was one of the nuclear package's sponsors. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Senate passed bipartisan nuclear energy legislation Tuesday, sending a major energy bill to the president’s desk for the first time this Congress.

The “Fire Grants and Safety Act,” S. 870, which contains the text of the nuclear bill known as the “ADVANCE Act,” breezed through the Senate on a 88-2 vote.

Passage of the “Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy Act” capped off more than a year of outreach and negotiations among some of Congress’ biggest nuclear energy supporters and marked a rare show of bipartisanship on major energy legislation.


The “ADVANCE Act” “will strengthen America’s leadership on nuclear energy and provide climate leadership on the world stage,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and one of the bill’s architects, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“The United States will now be able to realize the potential of this carbon-free energy source,” he said.

The bill, a compromise between the Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, cobbles together a number of lawmakers’ nuclear energy goals.

It aims to streamline the permitting process for advanced reactors, grow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s workforce, promote the development of fusion energy technology and improve the process for exporting nuclear technologies to international markets, among other priorities.

For some lawmakers, final passage Tuesday represented a possible departure from the federal government’s historical safety-first approach to nuclear energy development. The bill includes a provision to broaden the scope of the NRC’s mission statement to ensure licensing does “not unnecessarily limit” the benefits of nuclear energy to society.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) emerged as one of the legislation’s chief antagonists. He called for more debate and safeguards before pushing for a “brand new era” of nuclear energy expansion.