This week, the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to accelerate the development of commercial fusion energy. The Fusion Energy Act, which was incorporated into the Fire Grants and Safety Act, will 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.

The legislation, which previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives, now heads to President Biden to be signed into law.

Fusion energy has the potential to produce abundant clean electricity without harmful side effects like carbon emissions or long-lived radioactive waste.

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.

“I am pleased the Senate passed this important bill to help advance fusion energy, which has the potential to usher in a new era of energy production in America. By establishing a clear regulatory framework, our legislation 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 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 cementing U.S. leadership in fusion energy, and Congress took another crucial step forward by establishing clear regulatory authority to scale up commercial American fusion energy facilities and incentivize fusion investments.”

“Fusion energy is a promising clean and safe power source that could help address America’s growing energy demands,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation will advance fusion technology in pursuit of increased U.S. energy independence, and I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for supporting it.”

“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 see the Senate pass this forward-thinking legislation as an important component of a broader package of legislation that will help move nuclear energy forward, combat climate change and drive economic growth.”

“Fusion has the potential to play a tremendously important role in our clean energy future as a source of cheap and abundant carbon-free energy, and this bill will help ensure the United States maintains our leadership on this promising technology,” said Senator Murray. “Our legislation will provide the regulatory certainty needed to speed fusion development and deployment, boosting the fusion sector in Washington state and ultimately bringing down energy costs for families. As Washington state continues to be a global leader on fusion energy, I’m glad to see our bill pass the Senate and head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.”

Full bill text is available here.