NEI urges feds to speed recovery, support grid

April 7, 2020, 9:38AMNuclear News

Maria Korsnick, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Larry Kudlow on March 19, citing the “severe financial strain” being anticipated or experienced by the organization’s member companies due to the COVID-19 crisis. Korsnick offered a number of policy and legislative proposals that, she said, “would be of immediate benefit in helping the people and the companies of our nation’s nuclear energy sector to withstand the ongoing operational and economic disruption.”

Details:The letter set out four specific proposals:

Enable essential support for nuclear infrastructure—Lifeline sectors, including the nuclear power industry, may need to share essential personnel, including line and field workers, control room operators, and anyone else deemed essential, to address workforce shortages. Advance-approved travel and regulatory waivers will be essential to the timely movement and sharing of personnel, especially when crossing state or local county lines. Any federal, state, or local travel restriction declarations must accommodate the timely and secure movement of lifeline sector assets and essential personnel. In addition, critical employees—employees with day-to-day responsibility to maintain the operation and reliability of critical infrastructure, including ongoing and planned refueling of reactors—should have prioritized access to (1) testing, (2) anti-viral and other treatments for sick individuals, (3) vaccines, when vaccines are tested and proven safe for the public, and (4) personal protective equipment, such as N95 respirator masks, Tyvek suits, and nitrile gloves.

Provide grants for COVID-19–related paid leave—Authorize the secretary of energy to provide grant assistance to project owners of large critical infrastructure projects utilizing Department of Energy loan guarantees to defray the costs of paid leave granted to employees to address work interruptions related to COVID-19. This is necessary to ensure workforce and project continuity at the Vogtle-3 and -4 nuclear construction site in Waynesboro, Ga.

Incentivize investments in resilient nuclear generation—Supporting near-term investments in the operation and maintenance of nuclear power reactors will ensure their availability to provide around-the-clock electricity for up to 24 months at a time. The bipartisan Nuclear Powers America Act (H.R. 2314/S.1134) would provide a 30 percent investment tax credit for certain expenditures, helping to ensure the financial viability of the nation’s nuclear fleet, which provides nearly 20 percent of America’s electricity. As was done under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009, these credits should be convertible to payments in lieu of tax credits.

Provide temporary regulatory fee relief—Various agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, collect fees from licensees to offset their operating budgets. These fees amount to approximately $15 million annually for a typical two-unit nuclear power station. Temporarily waiving these fees will result in expeditious savings for consumers, as well as increased revenues that can be invested by industry for various capital needs.

Copies of Korsnick’s letter were sent to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

NEI to DOE: Korsnick penned a separate letter to Brouillette on March 20, requesting that the DOE support the following steps to help guarantee the continuity of reactor performance during the pandemic:

Ensure that the federal designation of essential workers includes workers supporting nuclear operations and refueling outages.

Allow travel to the plants for the performance of these activities.

Maintain hotel and food services to support these activities.

Permit unfettered access to travel across state lines and in communities in order to reach plant sites, lodging, and food services.

Provide priority for personal protective equipment, in particular, surgeons’ gloves, sanitized wipes, dust masks, and disposable thermometers.

Provide priority for COVID-19 testing kits and necessary radiological and medical protective equipment and supplies for nuclear workers.

Permit international workers who perform highly specialized functions to travel to the United States and establish protocols immediately to enable their safe entry.

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