“ADVANCE Act” Actually a Retreat on Nuclear Power Safety

Statement by Edwin Lyman, Nuclear Power Safety Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jun 17, 2024

The U.S. Senate is expected to pass the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy Act (ADVANCE Act) as part of legislation to reauthorize federal firefighter programs this week. The bill, already approved by the House, would then go to the president for his signature.

Below is a statement by Dr. Edwin Lyman, the director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“It’s extremely disappointing that, without any meaningful debate, Congress is about to erase 50 years of independent nuclear safety oversight by changing the NRC’s mission to not only protect public health and safety but also to protect the financial health of the industry and its investors. Just as lax regulation by the FAA—an agency already burdened by conflicts of interests—can lead to a catastrophic failure of an aircraft, a compromised NRC could lead to a catastrophic reactor meltdown impacting an entire region for a generation.

“Make no mistake: This is not about making the reactor licensing process more efficient, but about weakening safety and security oversight across the board, a longstanding industry goal. The change to the NRC’s mission effectively directs the agency to enforce only the bare minimum level of regulation at every facility it oversees across the United States.

“Passage of this legislation will only increase the danger to people already living downwind of nuclear facilities from a severe accident or terrorist attack, and it will make it even more difficult for communities to prevent risky, experimental reactors from being sited in their midst.”

Additional UCS resources:

• A UCS letter to congressional leadership outlining concerns with the companion House bill, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act.

• Lyman’s column “Conflicts of interest surrounding nuclear laws could undermine US safety” published in The Hill.

• An analysis published in Science that found the high assay low-enriched uranium fuel used in small nuclear power reactors can be used directly to make nuclear weapons, posing terrorism and nuclear proliferation threats.