The Department of Energy’s Office Nuclear Energy has launched a $6 billion program aimed at preserving the existing U.S. fleet of nuclear power reactors. Established under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Civil Nuclear Credit Program will allow owners and operators of commercial nuclear power reactors at economic risk of shutting down to apply for credits via a sealed bid process.
According to the DOE, the credits will be allocated to selected certified reactors over a four-year period, with credits awarded through September 30, 2031, if funds remain available.
Input requested: On Thursday, the DOE issued a prepublication version of a notice of intent (NOI) and request for information (RFI) to assist in the development of the credit program. An official NOI and RFI is pending publication in the Federal Register.
The NOI provides an opportunity for potential applicants to submit a voluntary, nonbinding expression of their interest in the program. The DOE is also seeking input, through the RFI, regarding the structure and execution of the program, including the certification process and eligibility criteria, invitations to submit bids for credits, and the allocation of credits.
The DOE is requesting general responses to the NOI and RFI by March 17, 2022. Substantive responses relating specifically to the certification process should be submitted by March 8, 2022, to ensure that they can be used to meet the department’s expedited schedule.
Why it matters: By recognizing the contributions of the existing U.S. nuclear reactor fleet in providing reliable, clean power to millions of households, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law supports continued operations of these clean energy sources and the nearly half a million U.S. jobs in the nuclear industry.
Shifting energy markets and other economic factors have already led to early closures of 12 commercial nuclear power reactors across the United States, and other economically at-risk facilities could retire in the coming years. Data show that closing nuclear power plants results in an increase in air pollutants and carbon emissions because fossil fuel plants typically fill the void left by carbon-free nuclear generation facilities.
The Biden administration has identified the nation’s current fleet of nuclear power plants as vital for achieving its goals of a carbon pollution–free electricity sector by 2035 and having net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.