Nuclear Energy Policy [June 20, 2012]   [open pdf - 467KB]

"Nuclear energy issues facing Congress include power plant safety and regulation, radioactive waste management, research and development priorities, federal incentives for new commercial reactors, nuclear weapons proliferation, and security against terrorist attacks. The earthquake and resulting tsunami that severely damaged Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, raised questions in Congress about the disaster's possible implications for nuclear safety regulation, U.S. nuclear energy expansion, and radioactive waste policy. The tsunami knocked out all electric power at the six-reactor plant, resulting in the overheating of several reactor cores, loss of cooling in spent fuel storage pools, major hydrogen explosions, and releases of radioactive material to the environment. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued orders to U.S. nuclear plants March 12, 2012, to begin implementing safety improvements in response to Fukushima. Significant incentives for new commercial reactors were included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05, P.L. 109-58), such as tax credits and loan guarantees. Together with volatile fossil fuel prices and the possibility of greenhouse gas controls, the federal incentives for nuclear power helped spur renewed interest by utilities and other potential reactor developers. License applications for as many as 31 new reactors have been announced, and NRC issued licenses for four reactors at two plant sites in early 2012. However, falling natural gas prices and other circumstances have made it unlikely that many more of the proposed nuclear projects will move toward construction in the near term."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL33558
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