WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, sent a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 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.
In the letter, the senators emphasize the importance of advanced nuclear technologies and the need for a GEIS. The senators write, “Developing a GEIS will reduce cumbersome regulatory barriers, expedite the environmental review process, and enable market deployment of innovative nuclear technologies.”
Barrasso and Braun also highlight the importance of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, which was signed into law by President Trump on January 14, 2019. NEIMA requires the NRC to establish a regulatory framework to license and deploy advanced nuclear technologies.
Read the full letter here and below.
Dear Chairman Svinicki:
We request you initiate a process to develop a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for the construction and operation of advanced nuclear reactors. A GEIS for advanced nuclear reactors will be a critical step to facilitate the deployment of new nuclear technologies.
Preserving and expanding the use of nuclear energy is crucial to address climate change. Advanced nuclear reactors can increase safety, reduce costs, and operate more efficiently compared to current nuclear power plant designs.
Congress has demonstrated bipartisan support for the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies. On January 14, 2019, President Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) into law. NEIMA directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to establish a technology-inclusive, regulatory framework for advanced nuclear reactors by December 31, 2027. A GEIS is another important action that aligns with NEIMA’s advanced nuclear reactor requirements.
Developing a GEIS will reduce cumbersome regulatory barriers, expedite the environmental review process, and enable market deployment of innovative nuclear technologies. Accelerating the licensing and permitting of new nuclear facilities will encourage the marketplace to support these advanced technologies.
The NRC currently uses a GEIS for some licensing actions, such as renewing licenses for current operating nuclear reactors and onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel. Some issues associated with advanced nuclear reactor licensing are similar to areas which the NRC currently uses a GEIS.
Establishing a GEIS for advanced nuclear reactors will focus NRC’s licensing efforts on the most important safety issues, reduce NRC staff resources dedicated to environmental permitting, and align with Congressional and Executive Branch efforts to conduct environmental permitting reviews more efficiently.
A GEIS for advanced reactors should:
• Acknowledge areas where common environmental impacts have already been effectively addressed in other elements of the NRC review;
• Acknowledge areas where issuance of other federal or state environmental permits can mitigate environmental impact;
• Credit designs that minimize environmental impact due to the production, design, and safety features of advanced reactors; and
• Allow unique design or site challenges to be addressed using Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements.
We support NRC’s efforts to incorporate innovation as part of the agency’s transformation initiative. A GEIS for advanced nuclear reactors will demonstrate NRC’s commitment to transform and innovate.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. We look forward to continuing these discussions on how to efficiently license, regulate, and oversee the safe use of advanced nuclear technologies.
John Barrasso, M.D.