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Government Watchdog Raises Concerns About Obstacles to Advancement of Nuclear Reactors

This article discusses a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding the challenges faced by reactor developers when dealing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The GAO report states that there are ongoing obstacles to the licensing of advanced reactors by the NRC, despite recent reforms. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who requested the assessment, expressed their agreement with the report’s findings. They believe that the NRC needs to take more action to efficiently review and approve advanced nuclear reactor designs.

One of the main concerns highlighted in the report is the unclear guidance on incomplete applications. The GAO report states that without a clear explanation of how the NRC handles such situations, developers may face an unpredictable review process when submitting applications for unique designs. The report also questions the NRC’s current guidance on the involvement of developers before formally filing applications.

The GAO report also mentions that the NRC’s falling budgets for the Nuclear Reactor Safety program have affected its ability to attract technical talent. This has led to concerns that advanced reactor developers can offer higher salaries than the NRC.

Another area of concern highlighted in the report is the unclear role of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) in the NRC’s licensing process. The report recommends that the NRC chairman address these issues and provide clarification on navigating the agency’s processes.

In response to the report, Sen. Capito mentioned her recent bill, the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy Act (ADVANCE Act), which aims to modernize the NRC and facilitate the deployment of clean, affordable nuclear energy. The article also mentions the mixed opinions on nuclear energy, with Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently vetoing a bill in Illinois that would have lifted the moratorium on building new nuclear power plants due to concerns about safety and cost.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a presidential candidate, has also expressed opposition to the NRC, calling it a hindrance to the revival of nuclear energy in the United States.

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