Sens. Scott, Coons Introduce Legislation to Remove Unnecessary Burdens on Nuclear Licensing

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the Efficient Nuclear Licensing Hearings Act, which would boost the efficiency and effectiveness of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by eliminating outdated processes currently required of the NRC when reviewing new nuclear reactor applications. More specifically, the bill removes the NRC’s mandatory hearing requirement created by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 without limiting opportunities for public engagement.

“In South Carolina, over 50% of our power comes from nuclear energy, making us a leader in the field. Our efforts to remove burdensome red tape will pave the way for other states to follow our lead,” said Senator Scott. Refining the NRC’s nuclear reactor license process will  boost efficiency at the agency and move us in the right direction for a more secure and robust energy future.”

Nuclear energy is the most efficient energy source available, and The Efficient Nuclear Licensing Hearings Act would modernize our nation’s nuclear reactor approval process,” said Senator Coons. “It’s time we remove outdated mandatory hearing requirements and increase the use of this energy security and climate solution.”

The Efficient Nuclear Licensing Hearings Act is also supported by the American Nuclear Society (ANS), Fluor Corporation, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), ClearPath Action, Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA), the United States Nuclear Industry Council (USNIC), Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), The Breakthrough Institute, and X-energy.

Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read the bill text in full here!


The NRC is currently required by law to hold a mandatory public hearing on every reactor license application towards the end of the licensing process, even after the NRC conducts statutorily required environmental and safety reviews that leave ample room for public engagement by stakeholders and interested citizens.

While these “mandatory hearings” provide the public with an opportunity to petition the NRC to intervene and contest the application, in many cases, the hearings are noncontroversial and go uncontested. In these situations where the applications go uncontested, the NRC is still required by statute to hold the hearing, devoting thousands of manhours to provide a public hearing with negligible impacts on the actual public.

The original justification for an uncontested mandatory hearing was to provide an open forum in which the details of reactor project applications were aired publicly and debated. In 1957, when the mandatory hearing was created in statute, nuclear energy was undoubtedly in a “developmental” period, as the United States had zero commercial nuclear power reactors in operation. Today, the U.S. has over 90 commercial reactors operating in 54 nuclear power plants in 28 different states.

Getting rid of this duplicative hearing requirement will create more efficiency at the NRC at a time when the agency’s resources should be streamlined by Congress in order to bring its licensing processes into the 21st century.