Nuclear Power

15 Feb 2022

DOE Launches Credit Program to Help Preserve Nation’s Nuclear Fleet

15 Feb 2022  by   

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking input on a newly established $6 billion program aimed at supporting the continued operation of U.S. nuclear reactors.

The Civil Nuclear Credit Program (CNC) was born out of the infrastructure bill signed into law last November. It allows owners and operators of commercial reactors to apply for and bid on credits to support their continued operations.

The Energy Department is asking for input on the structure and execution of the CNC program, including the certification process and eligibility criteria, invitations to submit bids for credits, and the allocation of credits. Help can come from all interested parties, including reactor owners and operators, state and local regulators and officials, Tribes, impacted community partners, environmental advocacy groups, and other partners involved in clean energy and electric generation, distribution, and planning.

Along with asking for CNC program criteria, the department said it also solicit voluntary, non-binding expressions of interest in the program. Further details on both solicitations and their deadlines can be found here.

The Biden Administration has identified the nation’s fleet of 93 reactors as an important clean energy resource. Shifting energy markets and other economic factors have led to the early closure of 12 U.S. reactors since 2013.

Credit applicants under the program must prove the reactor would close for economic reasons and that the closure would lead to a rise in air pollution. The DOE must also determine that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has “reasonable assurance” the reactor would continue to operate safely.

Credits are intended to be allocated over a four-year period beginning on the date of selection.

“U.S. nuclear power plants are essential to achieving President Biden’s climate goals and DOE is committed to keeping 100% clean electricity flowing and preventing premature closures,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

Nuclear power currently provides 52% of the nation’s clean electricity. A recent Associated Press survey of the energy policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that about two-thirds said that nuclear, in one fashion or another, will help take the place of fossil fuels. Roughly one-third of the states had no plans to incorporate nuclear power in their green energy goals, leaning heavily instead on renewables to try to stave off the worst effects of a warming planet.

Renewed interest in nuclear tech comes as companies, including one started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, are developing what are intended to be smaller, less expensive reactors that could supplement the power grid in communities across the U.S.

Despite some retirements and delayed or abandoned projects in the west, nuclear generation capacity could grow by 2.6% annually around the world.

A 2021 report by the World Nuclear Association forecast reactor power generation could reach 615 GW by 2040.


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