AI and data center growth equal power demand

April 3, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear NewsKen Petersen

Ken Petersen
president@ans.org

Nuclear has been on a good roll lately and it is getting better. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides a nuclear power production tax credit. This has stopped the early retirement of deregulated units. The IRA also provides a benefit for the clean production of hydrogen. Many utilities have committed to a net-zero goal by 2050. Duke and other utilities have plans to transition coal plants to nuclear with small modular reactors.

And now, nuclear has a new supporter—tech companies.

The big U.S. utility companies (like Exelon, Duke, Dominion, Southern, and Entergy) are all projecting growth in electricity demand—primarily in the commercial sector but some residential growth is also expected. Commercial growth is being driven by new factories (thank you, IRA and CHIPS, that is, the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors and Science Act). It is also being driven by data centers.

NRC shares Clinton license renewal application online

February 28, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News
Clinton nuclear power plant. (Photo: Constellation Energy)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published Clinton Power Station’s initial license renewal on the agency’s website.

Constellation Energy submitted the application February 14, seeking an extension for the Illinois plant's current operating license from 20 years to 40 years. This would allow the Illinois plant to run through 2047.

Clinton seeks initial license renewal

February 20, 2024, 6:55AMNuclear News
Clinton nuclear power plant, located near Clinton, Ill. (Photo: Constellation)

Constellation Energy is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an initial license renewal for its Clinton nuclear plant in Illinois, which would allow the facility to operate through 2047.

This move is not unexpected from Constellation, the largest producer of nuclear power in the United States. The vast majority of nuclear plants in the United States have already been approved for their first 20-year renewal term. Clinton, which came on line in 1987, is one of the nation’s “newer” plants.

Act now: Comments sought on hydrogen tax credit

February 12, 2024, 4:37PMNuclear News
The U.S. Treasury Department building in Washington, D.C.

Two weeks remain for public comments on the proposed language in the new federal rules proposed for hydrogen production tax credits. A public hearing on the regulations is scheduled for March 25, 2024.

While the federal proposal is largely popular among environmentalists and some pronuclear advocates, there are concerns from others that it would cut out opportunities for existing legacy nuclear plants that are well-equipped to convert part of their operations to hydrogen production. The proposed rules require hydrogen to come from newly built resources—the largest obstacle for legacy nuclear sites but further incentive to deploy new reactors—and would permit using natural gas if employed with carbon capture and sequestration.

2023 in Review: April–June

January 11, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2024, let’s look back at what happened in 2023 in the nuclear community. In today's post, compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire are what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from April through June 2023.

Stay tuned for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

Hydrogen production tax credits may exclude legacy nuclear

January 8, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News

New guidelines for federal hydrogen production tax credits may leave legacy nuclear plants out in the cold.

The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have released proposed language about who would qualify for the 45V Clean Hydrogen Production Tax Credit created by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The public comment period on the proposal is open until February 26.

NRC releases decommissioned Zion site for unrestricted use

November 9, 2023, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions
The Zion nuclear plant site as it appeared earlier this year. (Photo: Tim Gregoire)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released for “unrestricted use” most of the land on and around where the Zion nuclear power plant once operated in northeastern Illinois. This means that any residual radiation is below the NRC’s limits and there will be no further regulatory controls by the agency for that portion of the property.

Constellation, ComEd ink deal for hourly matching with nuclear power

September 19, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Byron nuclear power plant. (Photo: Constellation Energy)

Constellation Energy has announced an agreement with Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), Illinois’s largest electric utility, to power the latter’s 54 offices and metered facilities with locally produced nuclear energy, 24/7.

The U.S. nuclear fuel Gordian knot: The uncertain path forward

September 1, 2023, 3:07PMNuclear NewsMatt Wald

In the last few weeks of 2021, when it was clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had put this country’s uranium fuel supply in jeopardy, nuclear energy advocates lobbied hard to attach provisions to various pieces of “must-pass” legislation—such as the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA), the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act—to have the government get the ball rolling on new domestic uranium fuel production capacity. Four times they thought they had succeeded, that Congress was going to allocate enough money to start the United States on the road to a secure supply of reactor fuel, including the higher-enriched fuel needed for advanced reactors.

Kenneth S. Petersen: Looking forward with optimism

June 30, 2023, 3:03PMNuclear NewsPaul LaTour

When Ken Petersen is asked what he sees as the biggest challenges facing nuclear today and in the future, he immediately turns the question around. The 69th president of the American Nuclear Society prefers to focus on the positives of nuclear power instead of dwelling on the biggest challenges facing nuclear’s future prospects. That’s because there’s a lot to celebrate within the nuclear community—especially recently.

Most everything is trending up—from advanced technologies such as SMRs and microreactors to the promise of fusion energy to new ways of creating medical isotopes to progress in space exploration. “There’s huge momentum for nuclear right now,” Petersen said. “We're getting support from the environmentalist community and from legislation. I see it as a huge opportunity for us to continue to grow. It’s an exciting time. And it’s not just the U.S. It’s worldwide, too.”

The Civil Nuclear Credit Program: An overview

June 2, 2023, 3:07PMNuclear NewsMichael McQueen

Officially established on November 15, 2021, with the signing of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or BIL—the Department of Energy’s Civil Nuclear Credit Program was designed to give owners/operators of commercial U.S. reactors the opportunity to apply for certification and competitively bid on credits to help support the continued operation of economically troubled units. Finally, the federal government, and not just certain farsighted state governments, would recognize nuclear energy for its important grid reliability and decarbonization attributes.

NEI defends eligibility of existing nuclear for clean hydrogen tax credits

May 26, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Energy Institute—along with Constellation, Energy Harbor, PSEG, and Vistra—submitted a 19-page letter on May 24 to the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service, taking issue with April 10 comments to those agencies from the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) concerning the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean hydrogen production tax credit (Internal Revenue Code sec. 45V). (The Treasury and the IRS released a notice last November requesting public input on the credit’s implementation.)

Helion inks fusion energy purchase agreement with Microsoft

May 10, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Image: Helion

Helion Energy, based in Everett, Wash., today announced an agreement to use its first fusion power plant to provide electricity to Microsoft. Constellation, which operates 21 commercial nuclear reactors in the United States, will serve as the power marketer and will manage transmission for the project.

Trustees of Nuclear program lifts off with inaugural trustees

April 20, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

In the new year, ANS launched Trustees of Nuclear, a corporate partnership program ANS executive director/chief executive officer Craig Piercy announced in the January issue of Nuclear News (p. 25). The goal of Trustees of Nuclear is to directly support ANS’s programs aimed at improving nuclear literacy, like the Society’s K-12 nuclear STEM activities, public engagement, and discussions with policymakers. As the main professional organization for the whole nuclear discipline, ANS is in a unique position to unite leaders in the nuclear community to focus on these long-term programs and help the country realize the full potential of the atom.

On the verge of a crisis: The U.S. nuclear fuel Gordian knot

April 14, 2023, 3:00PMANS Nuclear CafeMatt Wald
This chart from the EIA shows sources of uranium for U.S. nuclear power plants, 1950-2021. In 2020, according to the chart, 39.60 million pounds of uranium oxide was imported for the domestic nuclear power plant fleet. (Credit: Energy Information Agency)

The naturalist John Muir is widely quoted as saying, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” While he was speaking of ecology, he might as well have been talking about nuclear fuel.

At the moment, by most accounts, nuclear fuel is in crisis for a lot of reasons that weave together like a Gordian knot. Today, despite decades of assertions from nuclear energy supporters that the supply of uranium is secure and will last much longer than fossil fuels, the West is in a blind alley. We find ourselves in conflict with Russia with ominous implications for uranium, for which Russia holds about a 14 percent share of the global market, and for two processes that prepare uranium for fabrication into reactor fuel: conversion (for which Russia has a 27 percent share) and enrichment (a 39 percent share).

Senate hearing focuses on securing the entire U.S. nuclear fuel cycle

March 14, 2023, 9:39AMEdited March 14, 2023, 9:38AMNuclear News
In this screenshot from a video recording of the hearing, Huff, Wagner, and Dominguez answer a series of questions from Sen. Manchin

“Right now, our country is deficient in nearly every aspect of the fuel cycle. This must change and it must change quickly,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), as he opened a Full Committee Hearing to Examine the Nuclear Fuel Cycle on March 9. “Whether it is uranium mining, milling, conversion, enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, power generation, or nuclear waste storage and disposal, there is much work to be done, starting with conversion and enrichment. Simply put, Russia dominates the global market, representing nearly half of the international capacity for both processes.”

Constellation to make major investment in two Illinois plants

February 23, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Braidwood (left) and Byron nuclear power plants. (Photos: Constellation Energy)

Constellation Energy has announced that it intends to invest $800 million in new equipment at the Braidwood and Byron nuclear plants in Illinois to raise their combined output by a total of about 135 MW.