DOE to invest $900M in next-generation nuclear

June 20, 2024, 12:01PMNuclear News

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to invest up to $900 million to support the initial deployment of small modular reactor technology.

The DOE issued a notice of intent to fund projects from President Biden’s infrastructure law with the goal of accelerating advanced nuclear projects to support energy infrastructure. The department estimates the country will need up to 950 gigawatts of reliable and clean energy to help reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Nuclear currently generates 18.6 percent of U.S. electricity.

“Nuclear power is a proven option that could be deployed to meet the [rising energy] need, including the growing demand from artificial intelligence and other data centers, and the reshoring of manufacturing, while creating high-paying jobs,” the DOE said in a news release.

Quotable: U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm applauded the DOE announcement and its support for “early movers in the nuclear sector as we seek to scale up nuclear power and reassert American leadership in this critical energy industry.”

“We are partnering with stakeholders to reinvigorate the existing nuclear fleet, jumpstart new reactor technologies, and onshore critical fuel production. The path to greater energy security and more climate solutions runs through investments like these,” said Ali Zaidi, national climate advisor and assistant to President Biden.

A closer look: Nuclear advocates tout the versatility, safety, and cost savings SMRs offer. Their small footprint, modular design, factory-based construction, and use of established fuel supply chains all serve to lower overall project costs. SMRs are adaptable to smaller, localized power demands and can be scaled up for larger demand or used to complement renewable energy sources.

The DOE anticipates offering funding in two tiers:

  • Tier 1 is dubbed the “first mover team support” and will be managed by the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations. The program will provide up to $800 million for two first-mover teams of utility, reactor vendor, constructor, and end-users or power offtakers committed to deploying a first plant while also facilitating a multireactor, Gen III+ SMR orderbook.
  • Tier 2, the “fast follower deployment support, will be managed by the Office of Nuclear Energy. Up to $100 million will be awarded to help bridge key gaps that have hindered the domestic nuclear industry in areas such as design, licensing, supplier development, and site preparation.

What’s next: The DOE expects to seek funding proposals in late summer or fall of this year. More information can be found at the program website. Potential applicants can register for an informational webinar on July 9.

The DOE also plans to hold an in-person Industry Day in August to facilitate partnerships among eligible applicant teams. Due to space constraints, event attendance will be prioritized for utilities, reactor vendors, constructors, end-users/offtakers, and members of the supply chain. Learn more here.

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