WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), along with Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) sent a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Kristine Svinicki applauding the commission for initiating development of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for advanced reactors. The senators also called on the commission to broaden the scope of the proposed generic environmental impact statement to make the document easier to use. The letter also requests the commission to consider actions to improve the environmental permitting of advanced reactors. 

In the letter, the senators request the NRC align the proposal with the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA). NEIMA requires the NRC to establish a regulatory framework for the NRC to license and utilities to deploy advanced nuclear technologies that reflects safer and smaller reactor designs. This will help nuclear innovators have a predictable and efficient regulatory process. 

Read the full letter here and below. 

Dear Chairman Svinicki, 

We applaud the actions taken by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to prepare an advanced reactor Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS), as requested in our June 25, 2019 letter.  An advanced reactor GEIS will serve as a valuable tool for nuclear innovators to accelerate the deployment of clean and reliable advanced nuclear reactors. 

Nuclear energy is a vital component of our nation’s energy system. It is necessary for our clean energy future. Advanced reactors could enhance safety, improve performance, and increase operational flexibility to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Scalable reactors could serve remote communities and other markets in need of reliable carbon-free electricity. Other advanced reactors could provide electricity and heat for non-electric applications, helping to ensure our environmental sustainability by reducing emissions from not only the electricity sector, but the transportation and industrial sectors as well. 

As stated in our previous letter, an advanced reactor GEIS will expedite the environmental review process and enable market deployment of innovative nuclear technologies. Use of a GEIS for advanced nuclear reactors will improve efficiency by avoiding redundant review of common issues and impacts. It will increase predictability in the licensing process, which is extremely important for the sustainable development of this next-generation technology. 

While we support the NRC staff’s plan to develop a technology-neutral GEIS, we request the Commission develop a broader GEIS to increase predictability and opportunity to develop advanced nuclear technologies. 

The proposed GEIS would only cover advanced nuclear reactors which generate small amounts of electricity. It would exclude light-water small modular reactors or larger non-water advanced reactors. This approach limits the usefulness of the GEIS. We encourage the development of a more inclusive GEIS. A GEIS based on risk would align with the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act’s (NEIMA) requirements to establish a technology-inclusive, risk-informed, and performance-based regulatory framework for advanced reactors. 

The Commission should also consider additional actions to improve the environmental permitting of advanced reactors. This could include assessing alternative site and need for power analyses, or incorporating existing environmental analyses into the NRC’s review, to the extent practicable. 

We appreciate the Commission’s continued commitment to establishing a timely, effective, and efficient regulatory framework for advanced reactor applicants. We ask that your response detail how you plan to incorporate our requests into the advanced reactor GEIS.



John Barrasso, M.D. 

Mike Braun                                                     

Mike Crapo 

Background Information:

On June 25, 2019, Barrasso and Braun sent a letter to Chairman Kristine Svinicki calling on the commission to initiate a process to develop a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for the construction and operation of advanced nuclear reactors.