Bill to preserve, expand U.S. nuclear energy sector reintroduced

July 19, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

Capito

A bipartisan group of senators has reintroduced the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA), initially introduced last fall in the previous Congress. Sponsors include Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), the ranking member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee; John Barrasso (R., Wyo.); Cory Booker (D., N.J.); Mike Crapo (R., Idaho); and Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.).

Last month, the American Nuclear Society joined 23 other nuclear-focused entities in signing a letter to those lawmakers urging reintroduction of the bill.

Biden, senators agree to infrastructure deal

June 25, 2021, 9:33AMNuclear News

Manchin

Biden

President Biden struck an infrastructure deal yesterday with a bipartisan group of senators to provide new investments for electric utilities, transportation, broadband, and other projects.

The deal coincided with a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR) hearing yesterday, which examined the infrastructure needs of the U.S. energy sector and considered the legislative proposal released last week by SENR chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) . The proposal, labeled a "discussion draft," is currently in play for ongoing bipartisan infrastructure negotiations and includes provisions that would comply with rules on budget reconciliation, including a section that fully funds the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and other Energy Act of 2020 programs. Manchin's proposal would also look to create a Department of Energy grant program for at-risk nuclear plants on an as-needed basis.

Biden administration’s proposed FY 2022 budget supports nuclear

June 3, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

The Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget sent to Congress last week would, according to the Department of Energy, move the United States toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The FY 2022 budget request includes $1.85 billion for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“President Biden’s budget request puts America in the driver's seat as we transition toward a 100 percent clean energy economy,” said secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm on May 28. “These investments will ensure the U.S. is the global leader in research, development, and deployment of critical energy technologies to combat the climate crisis, create good-paying union jobs, and strengthen our communities in all pockets of America.”

U.S. and France commit to “common ambition” on advanced nuclear

June 2, 2021, 3:12PMNuclear News

U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and French minister for the ecological transition Barbara Pompili issued a joint statement on May 28 in which they pledged to work together to meet shared climate goals.

“France and the United States share common goals and common resolve in fighting climate change and working toward reaching the ambitious target set forth by the Paris agreement,” the statement read. “We are united in a common ambition on both sides of the Atlantic: achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Reaching this common objective will require leveraging all currently existing emission-free technologies available to us while simultaneously intensifying research, development, and deployment across a suite of zero-emissions energy sources and systems. Ensuring that these energy systems are efficient and reliable, integrating larger shares of renewables coupled with nuclear energy, which is a significant part of today’s electricity production in both our countries, will be crucial to accelerate energy transitions. Reaching this common objective will also require a wide variety of favorable financing conditions across the range of zero-emitting power sources and systems.”

NuScale to explore SMR deployment in central Washington

May 27, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News
An artist's rendering of the NuScale plant. Image: NuScale

Portland, Ore.–based NuScale Power has announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Grant County Public Utility District (Grant PUD) to evaluate the deployment of NuScale’s advanced nuclear technology in central Washington state.

More encouraging words on nuclear from Biden climate advisor

May 24, 2021, 3:14PMANS Nuclear Cafe

McCarthy

Despite the discordant, antinuclear note struck by President Biden’s environmental justice panel in a recent report, other administration officials continue to signal support for nuclear energy.

In an interview with the Washington Post last week touting the president’s American Jobs Plan, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy reiterated her belief that nuclear energy is key to the administration’s stated goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Advanced reactor economics and markets

May 21, 2021, 2:41PMNuclear NewsCharles Forsberg and Eric Ingersoll
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy jointly developed the sodium-cooled Natrium reactor with the turbine hall, nitrate heat storage tanks, and cooling towers separated from the reactor at the back of the site.

The viability of nuclear power ultimately depends on economics. Safety is a requirement, but it does not determine whether a reactor will be deployed. The most economical reactor maximizes revenue while minimizing costs. The lowest-cost reactor is not necessarily the most economical reactor. Different markets impose different requirements on reactors. If the capital cost of Reactor A is 50 percent more than Reactor B but has characteristics that double the revenue, the most economical reactor is Reactor A.

The most important factor is an efficient supply chain, including on-site construction practices. This is the basis for the low capital cost of light water reactors from China and South Korea. The design of the reactor can significantly affect capital cost through its impact on the supply chain. The question is, how can advanced reactors boost revenue and reduce costs?

Time for Illinois’s nuclear advocates to turn up the volume

May 21, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. Photo: Teemu008/Wikipedia

As Illinois lawmakers race to hammer out a compromise clean energy bill before the current legislative session adjourns on May 31, advocacy group Nuclear Matters is asking members of the state’s nuclear community to speak up in support of state aid for the struggling Byron and Dresden nuclear plants, both of which are scheduled to be prematurely retired later this year by Exelon.

Nuclear Matters has launched a letter-writing campaign to encourage individuals to contact their representatives via a pre-drafted letter to urge passage of legislation that will provide that aid. The letter is one of general support for Illinois’s nuclear plants and not an endorsement of any specific measure.

Group calls for NRC licensing fee reform to spur advanced nuclear

May 20, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) yesterday released a report, Unlocking Advanced Nuclear Innovation: The Role of Fee Reform and Public Investment, arguing that a reform of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s user-fee model for new license applicants, combined with more funding for advanced reactor licensing and regulatory infrastructure, will unlock innovation and support U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear energy.

The 38-page report asserts that as currently structured, the NRC’s fee model inhibits carbon-free advanced nuclear innovation in two primary ways: First, it limits the agency’s resources, flexibility, and efficiency; and second, the open-ended costs associated with paying fees impose barriers to new entrants.

Report: Existing and advanced nuclear best for meeting Illinois’s climate goals

May 18, 2021, 12:10PMNuclear News

Among the 12 energy-mix scenarios analyzed in a new report from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, maintaining the current Illinois reactor fleet while also investing in advanced nuclear technology and renewable energy is the most economical path to zero carbon for the state. It is also, says the report, the path that generates the lowest lifecycle carbon emissions.

The 26-page report, Economic and Carbon Impacts of Potential Illinois Nuclear Plant Closures: The Cost of Closures, was coauthored by Kathryn Huff, who was recently appointed principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy, along with Madicken Munk, a research scientist in the university’s Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) Department, and Sam Dotson, a graduate researcher in NPRE’s Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycle Analysis group. Financial support for the report was provided by Nuclear Matters.

Nebraska ponders advanced nuclear

May 13, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News

Bostelman

Companies that build advanced nuclear reactors in Nebraska would be eligible for tax incentives should a measure now being considered by that state’s lawmakers, Legislative Bill 84, become law.

Under L.B. 84, sponsored by Sen. Bruce Bostelman (R., 23rd Dist.), a renewable energy firm that uses nuclear energy to produce electricity could take advantage of the ImagiNE Nebraska Act—a business tax incentive program signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts in August of last year. The bill adds “nuclear electric power generation” to the act’s list of renewable energy sources qualifying for incentives. (Sources already listed in the act include wind, solar, energy storage, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, and transmutation of elements.)

Bill to spur clean energy investment brought back in Senate

April 12, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Moran

Coons

Sens. Chris Coons (D., Del.) and Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) late last month reintroduced legislation to give investors in clean energy projects, including advanced nuclear, access to a tax advantage currently available only to fossil fuel investors. The bipartisan bill, the Financing Our Energy Future Act (H.B. 1034), was initially introduced in June 2019.

The measure would enable clean energy companies to form master limited partnerships (MLPs)—business ventures that combine the tax benefits of private partnerships (where profits are taxed only when investors receive distributions) with the liquidity of publicly traded companies. By statute, MLPs are currently available only to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects.

Road to advanced nuclear: How DOE and industry collaborations are paving the way for advanced nuclear reactors

April 2, 2021, 8:58AMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

As electric utilities rush to reduce carbon emissions by investing in intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, they often rely heavily on fossil fuels to provide steady baseload power.

More than 60 percent of the nation’s electricity is still generated with fossil fuels, especially coal-fired and gas-fired power plants that have the ability to quickly ramp up or ramp down power to follow loads on the electric grid. Most experts agree that even with a radical advancement in energy storage technology, relying exclusively on wind and solar to replace fossil fuels won’t be enough to maintain a stable electric grid and avoid the major impacts of climate change.

To complete the transition to a carbon-free energy future, one key piece of the puzzle remains: nuclear power.

Biden administration releases plan to build back U.S. infrastructure

April 1, 2021, 12:03PMEdited April 2, 2021, 6:09AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Biden

President Biden introduced a $2 trillion American Jobs Plan on Wednesday to overhaul and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure as part of his “Build Back Better” campaign pledge. His plan is ambitious: “It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Biden said. “It is a once-in-a-generation investment in America.”

According to Axios, the policy would be “the most far-reaching federal investment to date in programs that would help curb greenhouse gas emissions. But it faces serious challenges in the closely divided Congress.”

NARUC partners with DOE to explore nuclear power issues

March 9, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has launched a five-year nuclear energy partnership with the Department of Energy. Announced on March 8, the partnership is aimed at providing opportunities for state public service commissioners and their staffs to “better understand barriers and possibilities related to the U.S. nuclear fleet.”

Partnership members will engage in activities such as stakeholder dialogues, peer-sharing calls, site visits, educational webinars, and briefing papers, according to NARUC.

Support for the project is furnished by the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy through the NARUC Center for Partnerships and Innovation. A kickoff meeting is scheduled for later this month.

DOE releases blueprint for advancing U.S. nuclear

January 12, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) last week released its Strategic Vision report, outlining its plan to support the current U.S. reactor fleet, demonstrate the latest innovations in nuclear energy technologies, and explore new market opportunities for nuclear energy.

The 36-page document identifies five goals to address challenges in the nuclear energy sector, help realize the potential of advanced technology, and leverage the unique role of the federal government in sparking innovation. Each goal also includes supporting objectives to ensure progress.

U.S., Slovenia ink nuclear cooperation MOU

December 10, 2020, 3:01PMNuclear News

Anže Logar, Slovenia’s foreign minister (left), talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 7 in Washington, D.C. Photo: State Department

In the latest example of the Trump administration’s recent efforts to forge nuclear agreements with Central and Eastern European nations (for other examples, see here, here, and here), the United States earlier this week signed a memorandum of understanding concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation (NCMOU) with Slovenia.

The NCMOU was signed on December 8 during a visit to Washington, D.C., by a Slovenian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Anže Logar. Signing it were Christopher Ford, the administration’s assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and Jernej Vrtovec, Slovenia’s minister of infrastructure.

The previous day, Logar met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss, among other topics, “the importance of energy security and how civil nuclear cooperation can strengthen the strategic bilateral relationship,” according to a State Department readout.

Japan should revive its nuclear industry, says new report

December 8, 2020, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center has issued a report, Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Fleet: The Geopolitical and Climate Implications of Accelerated Decommissioning, contending that Japan’s reaction to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has led to an increased dependence on carbon-emitting energy sources that ultimately undermine the country’s recently announced climate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Recommendations: Released just a few months prior to the 10-year anniversary of the accident on March 11, 2011, the report recommends that Japan:

  • Use its existing nuclear fleet in the near and long term to 2050,
  • remain involved in global civil nuclear trade,
  • develop a role for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, which it should deploy as soon as feasible,
  • rebuild its nuclear energy workforce and public trust in nuclear power, and
  • regain its leadership position in the climate battle.

GE Hitachi SMR reaches U.S. licensing milestone

December 2, 2020, 12:00PMNuclear News

A cutaway view of the BWRX-300. Image: GE Hitachi Nuclear

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final safety evaluation report for the first of several licensing topical reports (LTR) submitted by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) for the BWRX-300 small modular reactor, the company announced on December 1.

The initial LTR, titled “BWRX-300 Reactor Pressure Vessel Isolation and Overpressure Protection,” was submitted to the NRC in December 2019, officially beginning the U.S. licensing process. This LTR forms the basis for the “dramatic simplification” of the BWRX-300, according to GEH.

In its announcement, GEH noted that two additional LTRs were submitted in early 2020 and that it anticipates reviews of those reports to be completed in the coming months. A fourth LTR was submitted in September 2020, the company added.

Nuclear scores point in U.K. green plan

December 1, 2020, 12:03PMNuclear News

The United Kingdom, the first of the world’s major economies to adopt a legally binding commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, has released a blueprint to help realize that goal—one that includes a substantial role for nuclear energy

The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution will mobilize a total of £12 billion (about $16 billion) of government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs in the United Kingdom and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030, according to the UK government on November 18.

In addition to nuclear, offshore wind, hydrogen production, carbon capture, and vehicle electrification are also earmarked for significant investment in the 38-page document.