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Congressional Interest in Accident Tolerant Fuel

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Origins

After the 2012 Japanese tsunami and resultant nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the US Congress directed the pursuit of advanced fuel technologies that would enhance the safety of nuclear power reactors in the United States. Specifically, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Conference Report 112–75 Congress stated the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Nuclear Energy, was:

  • Directed "to give priority to developing enhanced fuels and cladding for light water reactors to improve safety in the event of accidents in the reactor or spent fuel pools,"

  • Urged "that special technical emphasis and funding priority be given to activities aimed at the development and near-term qualification of meltdown-resistant, accident-tolerant nuclear fuels that would enhance the safety of present and future generations of Light Water Reactors,"

  • And requested "to report to the Committee, within 90 days of enactment of this act, on its plan for development of meltdown resistant fuels leading to reactor testing and utilization by 2020."

NEIMA

On January 14, 2019, the president signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA). Specifically, NEIMA, Section 107, "Commission Report On Accident Tolerant Fuel," states the following.

SEC. 107. COMMISSION REPORT ON ACCIDENT TOLERANT FUEL.

  1. DEFINITION OF ACCIDENT TOLERANT FUEL. —In this section, the term "accident tolerant fuel" means a new technology that—
    1. makes an existing commercial nuclear reactor more resistant to a nuclear incident (as defined in section 11 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2014)); and
    2. lowers the cost of electricity over the licensed lifetime of an existing commercial nuclear reactor.
  2. REPORT TO CONGRESS. —Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall submit to Congress a report describing the status of the licensing process of the Commission for accident tolerant fuel.

The requested report was sent to Congress on January 9, 2020.

Funding

Contained within each year's Appropriation Acts, Congress has directed federal funds for the development of ATF. These funds are to be distributed by DOE to the vendors, licensees, and the National Labs specifically for the development of new ATF technologies.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, July 23, 2020