The White House enforces big nuclear power plants

In the nuclear power sector, the White House seeks to “reestablish U.S. leadership” and spur the development of a new generation of reactors that can be constructed more swiftly and affordably.

Proud of the completion of the most costly nuclear construction project in U.S. history, the Georgian Plant Vogtle expansion, the Biden administration promised on Wednesday to increase federal funding for nuclear megaprojects and small-scale reactor deployment.

Nuclear power is part of the administration’s portfolio of carbon-free technologies, which President Joe Biden has embraced in an effort to help achieve the objective of removing climate emissions from the power sector by 2035.

Nevertheless, nuclear power has essentially been nonexistent in the US for many years. Last decade, an increase in natural gas production surpassed it, funding the construction of new gas-fired power plants. A mix of energy storage, wind, solar, and gas projects is meeting the nation’s growing electricity demand this decade. Maintaining plant operations in competitive electricity markets has been a challenging task for the sector.

“The U.S. is taking steps to mitigate project risks associated with large nuclear builds and position U.S. industry to support an aggressive deployment target,” the White House stated, acknowledging the significance of both the current U.S. nuclear fleet and the ongoing build-out of large nuclear power plants.

The Department of Energy, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, and the John Podesta-led White House energy innovation team announced the formation of a working group to address challenging issues like the high cost and long build times for modern reactors.

Cutting-edge reactors could potentially power Army locations, according to the White House. An administration fact sheet states that the Army intends to issue a request for information shortly in order to “inform a deployment program.” The White House also announced the Idaho National Laboratory’s latest tool release, which aims to reduce the rising expense of new nuclear construction.

Currently, nuclear power produces around 20% of the electricity in the United States. What appeared to be a gradual decline in nuclear power a few years ago is now becoming more and more popular in places where demand for electricity is rising. Additionally, some states view nuclear as a means of achieving their own clean energy and climate goals.

Intend to quicken
Critics have criticized Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle project for its seven-year delay and $35 billion price tag, more than twice the project’s original $14 billion projection. Utility customers will cover that expense.

The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office provided $12 billion in loan guarantees to assist in the construction of the massive Plant Vogtle project. Holtec International, the first in the United States to reopen the shut-down Palisades nuclear power station in Michigan, has received backing from the DOE.

China and Russia are competing with Westinghouse Electric Co. to build nuclear power plants globally.

According to David Durham, president of energy systems at Westinghouse, “we’ll probably have some announcements regarding additional projects in North America for the AP1000” in the not-too-distant future.

According to the White House, the Pentagon may install smaller reactors and microreactors to increase its ability to maintain electricity supply in the event of a cyberattack on the grid or severe weather blackouts.

In the volatile world of small modular reactors, federal subsidies and support for research and development are contributing to the industry’s continued pace. However, the market for tiny modular reactors is still developing. Regulators are developing new rules. Investor caution presents a challenge for the industry.

Additionally, nuclear industries are struggling with the fuel supply chain. Additionally, the White House announced that it is striving to streamline the lengthy, onerous licensing procedures that may be a gantlet for both building new reactors and prolonging the life of current reactors.

Meanwhile, nuclear energy proponents and Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to prevent Biden and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from impeding reactor development with additional safety and permission rules.

The “Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act” has been the focus of energy leaders’ months-long efforts to reach the president’s desk. The legislation, which is the result of a compromise between the Senate Environment and Public Works and House Energy and Commerce committees, aims to support the development of fusion technology, streamline the licensing process for advanced reactors, and increase hiring at the NRC in order to help the agency increase nuclear deployment.

The House has already passed the bill. The Senate is almost at a consensus for passing by unanimous consent.

There is a fair probability that the package will be attached to a more significant must-pass bill if the Senate does not adopt it separately. That could potentially be the National Defense Authorization Act of 2025.