Hopes to slash emissions using nuclear energy are being dashed by U.S. regulators.
For anyone hoping to reboot the nuclear power sector as a source of zero-carbon energy in the age of climate change, the news has not been good. On Feb. 28, the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) forwarded a proposed licensing framework for next-generation reactors to the agency’s five politically appointed commissioners. That proposal came little more than a year after the NRC summarily rejected Oklo Power’s license application for its Aurora reactor. The application was the first attempt to obtain a license to operate an advanced nuclear reactor in the United States.
The new rules, mandated by the U.S. Congress, were supposed to provide a modern, streamlined licensing process for the new small reactors in advanced stages of development by multiple U.S. and international companies. Instead, the NRC staff simply cut and pasted the existing rules for large conventional reactors into a mammoth 1,200-page regulation for new reactor types.
These developments are a shock for anyone counting on a nuclear revival to cut climate emissions. Absent substantial regulatory reform, the future of nuclear energy in the United States will look very much like the past.
Licensing of advanced reactors will proceed in much the same way it has for conventional reactors for decades: slowly, expensively, and with an excess of precaution so extreme that observers have long quipped that the NRC’s view of nuclear safety is that the safest reactor is one that will never be built.
For the rest of this article: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/04/08/nuclear-power-energy-net-zero-emissions-nrc-regulation-climate-change/