Padilla, Cornyn, Booker, Young, Murray Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Accelerate the Development of Fusion Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate the development of commercial fusion energy. The Fusion Energy Act would codify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) regulatory authority over commercial fusion energy systems to streamline the creation of clear federal regulations to support the development of commercial production facilities.

Fusion energy has the potential to produce abundant clean electricity without harmful side effects like carbon emissions or long-lived radioactive waste. Fusion energy commercialization can be a key component in the United States’ efforts to fully decarbonize the grid by 2050.

In December 2022, California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a global leader in fusion technology, became the first lab to achieve fusion ignition — meaning more energy was released than was needed for the reaction.

On April 14, 2023, NRC voted to separate the regulatory frameworks of fusion and fission energy and create a unique regulatory framework for fusion energy. The Fusion Energy Act would ensure the development of a tailored NRC regulatory framework geared toward supporting the growth of the emerging commercial fusion energy sector. The legislation would also require the NRC to study and report to Congress within one year regarding licensing commercial fusion machines, including streamlining considerations.

“Fusion energy holds the potential to power the entire country with a sustainable supply of nearly unlimited, reliable, and carbon-free electricity,” said Senator Padilla. “The breakthrough of fusion ignition at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a key step toward meeting our nation’s critical clean energy goals and cementing U.S. leadership in fusion energy. We now need clear regulatory authority to scale up commercial American fusion energy facilities and incentivize fusion investments.”

“Fusion energy offers a potential clean, safe power source that can help meet our nation’s energy needs,” said Senator Cornyn. “I am proud to support advancements in fusion technology as part of Texas’ all-of-the-above energy economy.”

“New Jersey has long been at the forefront of fusion research and innovation, driving the future of clean energy,” said Senator Booker. “By implementing this regulatory framework, this bill will propel fusion energy forward as a potential source of abundant carbon-free energy. I’m proud to join my colleagues to champion legislation that will unlock the potential of fusion to combat climate change and drive economic growth.”

“Our bipartisan bill marks a pivotal step in advancing fusion energy, which has the potential to usher in a new era of energy production in America. By establishing a clear regulatory framework, this bill would improve the research and development of fusion capabilities, enabling commercialization and reaffirming American leadership in innovation and technology,” said Senator Young.

“Fusion energy holds tremendous promise as a source of clean, cheap, and abundant energy—and Washington state is quickly becoming a global leader in the development of fusion. Our legislation will help provide the certainty needed to speed fusion research, development, and deployment—unlocking more clean power and bringing down energy costs for families. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to realize the promise of fusion energy and ensure the United States, and Washington state in particular, maintain our leadership on this groundbreaking technology,” said Senator Murray.

“Clear guidance through an appropriate regulatory framework is essential to the emerging fusion field. LLNL looks forward to partnering with Sen. Padilla and others in Congress in support of U.S. leadership in fusion energy, as the Lab continues to set historic records in fusion at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) — our unique national security experimental facility that supports the Nation’s strategic deterrent and provides fundamental data that also paves the way toward a fusion energy future,” said Dr. Kimberly Budil, Laboratory Director, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“The Fusion Industry Association (FIA) has consistently supported regulatory and legislative efforts to provide certainty in the regulation of fusion energy. We support efforts to permanently and completely separate the regulation of fusion energy from the regulation of fission, and look forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress to see this enacted into law,” said Andrew Holland, Chief Executive Officer, Fusion Industry Association.

Congressional Fusion Energy Caucus Co-Chairs Lori Trahan (D-Mass.-03), Don Beyer (D-Va.-08), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.-03), and Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.-23) passed companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Last year, Senator Padilla welcomed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) announcement of $42 million for a program to establish three hubs to advance inertial fusion energy, including $16 million for a hub led by the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. Additionally, Padilla and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-18) pushed President Biden to support the inclusion of over $1 billion in FY24 funding for the Fusion Energy Sciences program within the DOE’s Office of Science, consistent with the amount authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act.

A one-pager of the bill is available here.

Full text of the bill available here.


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