Biden Administration Pledges $1.2 Billion to Keep U.S. Nuclear Reactors Online

The Biden administration has pledged another $1.2 billion to help extend the operating life of older or distressed nuclear power plants, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm saying nuclear power is needed to support the nation’s clean energy goals.

The funding, announced by the Dept. of Energy (DOE) on March 2, is the second tranche of financial aid included in the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program that was created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in 2021.

“President Biden’s $6 billion investment in the Civil Nuclear Credit Program made it abundantly clear that preserving the domestic nuclear fleet is critical to reaching America’s clean energy future,” said Granholm. “Expanding the scope of this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will allow even more nuclear facilities the opportunity to continue operating as economic drivers in local communities that benefit from cheap, clean, and reliable power.”

The president’s climate team has said nuclear power, as a source of carbon-free electricity, should be preserved and expanded to reach the administration’s goal of 100% clean electricity production by 2035. The administration also wants to keep reactors online while the country continues to build more power generation from renewable energy resources.

92 Operating Reactors in U.S.

There are currently 92 operating nuclear reactors across the U.S., according to the DOE, after the closure of 13 units in the past decade. The money in this second round of funding is available to plants at risk of closure within a few years. It also is available to nuclear power plants that have stopped operating after Nov. 15, 2021.

The money could support reopening the 800-MW Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan that was closed in May 2022. The plant, which was operated by Entergry and is now owned by Holtec International, had its application for funding rejected during the first round of financial aid from the credit program. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been a proponent of bringing Palisades back online.

The Palisades nuclear power plant was a single-unit pressurized water reactor nuclear station with a capacity of about 800 MW. It was closed in May 2022, then purchased by Holtec International for decommissioning. Holtec is now seeking to restart the plant. Courtesy: Entergy

Holtec officials in February said it would take more than $1 billion to reopen Palisades, which had operated for more than 50 years. The group has applied for a different source of funding, from the DOE’s Loan Programs Office, to reopen the plant located in Covert Township. Holtec bought the plant in June of last year for decommissioning, before making its first application to restart the facility the following month.

Patrick O’Brien, director of government affairs for Holtec, in an emailed statement after Thursday’s announcement wrote, “This is great news for the industry, and our country, to consider nuclear so vital for our energy future that the idea of what we are trying to accomplish with Palisades, returning a shutdown nuclear plant back to operation, is something that should happen.”

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), operator of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California, was awarded $1.1 billion in conditional funding during the first award cycle. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved PG&E’s request for an exemption that could allow the 2,300-MW plant to continue operating past its scheduled 2025 closure date.

Applications for the second round of program funding will close on May 31.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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