Nuclear Energy Leadership Act - H.R.3306 / S.903

"To direct the Secretary of Energy to establish advanced nuclear goals, provide for a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source, make available high assay, low-enriched uranium for research, development, and demonstration of advanced nuclear reactor concepts, and for other purposes."
Primary Sponsors
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) / Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA)
Final outcome

Modified version of S.903 included in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

Summary of Selected Provisions

Selected provisions in both bills

  • Directs the Department of Energy to complete at least two advanced nuclear reactor demonstration projects by the end of 2025 and between 2 and 5 additional projects by the end of fiscal year 2035
  • Requires DOE to partner with the Defense Department or another federal agency to enter into at least one agreement by the end of 2023 to purchase nuclear power from a newly licensed reactor for up to 40 years, giving “special consideration” to “first-of-a-kind or early deployment nuclear technologies”
  • Directs DOE to develop a 10-year Nuclear Energy Strategic Plan
  • Directs DOE to establish a program to make available a supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium for use in advanced nuclear reactors
Actions on the House bill
Bill introduced
Actions on the Senate bill
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved amended bill
Bill introduced
Status update

Modified version of S.903 was included in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, and H.R.3306 was incorporated into the House's Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. A compromise version was ultimately enacted as part of the Energy Act of 2020, which was attached to the fiscal year 2021 omnibus spending bill.

Relevant FYI Bulletins

A product of two years of legislative work, the Energy Act of 2020 overhauls policy across the Department of Energy’s applied energy and fusion R&D programs, including by recommending substantial funding increases and greatly expanding efforts aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

The House passed a sweeping energy policy reform package last month that includes expansive new direction to the Department of Energy’s applied R&D programs and recommends significant funding increases for renewable energy, fission and fusion energy, and carbon capture.

The House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act propose numerous provisions aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness in commercial technologies that have important national security applications, including microelectronics, artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunications, and advanced nuclear reactors.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s long-awaited energy innovation legislation is in limbo after a dispute broke out during floor debate over proposed add-on provisions.

The budgets for the Department of Energy’s applied R&D offices are all increasing in fiscal year 2020, in most cases by large amounts. The increases include new funding for negative emissions technologies and a major advanced nuclear reactor demonstration program.

The House is proposing steady funding for the Department of Energy’s nuclear and fossil energy R&D programs and significant increases for renewable energy and grid-related R&D. The Senate, meanwhile, is proposing generally larger increases across all of DOE’s applied R&D programs, including initial funding for an advanced nuclear reactor demonstration program.

As Congress seeks to reinvigorate the U.S. nuclear sector with new legislative backing for advanced reactor development, members are also making a renewed push to solve the nuclear waste stalemate.

Efforts in the Senate to promote technology innovation as a way to combat climate change are beginning to progress. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has renewed his push to “double energy research funding,” while the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has begun to develop legislation to promote technology development and commercialization.

Efforts by Congress and the Department of Energy to spur the development and commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors have gained steam in recent months, though some moves have received criticism.