There are a number of laws influencing nuclear energy R&D, expansion, and overall use. The Energy Policy Act 2005 included a number of incentives for the US nuclear power industry, including:

  • A production tax credit (PTC) of 1.8 cents/kWh for the first 6,000 MWe of new nuclear capacity in the first eight years of operation. To qualify for the nuclear PTC, a plant must be in service on or before December 31, 2020. The maximum value of the tax credit is $6 billion over an eight-year period. The nuclear PTC was extended in February 2018 to allow reactors entering service after December 31, 2020 to qualify for the tax credit. The extension also enables the US Energy Secretary to allocate credit for up to 6,000 MWe of new nuclear capacity that enters service after January 1, 2021.
  • Federal risk insurance of $2 billion to cover regulatory delays in full-power operation of the first six advanced new nuclear power plants.
  • Rationalized tax on decommissioning funds.
  • Federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear reactors (or other emission-free technologies), up to 80% of the project cost.
  • Extension for 20 years of the Price Anderson Act for nuclear liability protection.
  • Support for advanced nuclear technology.[1]

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA) became law in September 2018. This legislation is designed to bring advanced reactors to market. Among other provisions, NEICA:

  • Establishes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fee cost-share program for advanced technologies.
  • Directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to create domestic neutron source to test new reactors.
  • Requires the DOE to award grants to cover a portion of the fees the NRC charges for pre-application and application review activities for advanced nuclear reactor designs.
  • Directs the DOE to establish a high-performance computer modeling and simulation program to advance the development of new reactor technologies.
  • Provides for the sharing of technical information and expertise between the DOE and the NRC, which could accelerate NRC licensing of advanced reactor designs.[2]

NEICA eliminates barriers to innovation within the private sector and it also strengthens collaboration with national labs to advance nuclear energy. The full-text version of the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act is available here.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act became law in January 2019. This legislation establishes a program to develop the expertise and regulatory processes necessary to allow innovation and the commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors. It also establishes a revised fee recovery structure to ensure the availability of resources to meet industry needs without burdening existing licensees unfairly for inaccurate workload projections or premature existing reactor closures. This law also supports the more efficient regulation of uranium recovery. The full-text version of the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act is available here.

The Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act, which became law in September 2018, supports research and development activities related to fusion materials, nuclear physics, and isotope production. The full-text version of the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act is available here.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) published a Status Report in January 2019 focusing on State Legislation and Regulations Supporting Nuclear Energy. That document is available here.

Updated November 2020 by Kristen Johnson