The Department of Energy (DOE) today opened a loan guarantee solicitation to make available as much as $12.5 billion to bolster the construction of new nuclear projects.

Issued under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Advanced Nuclear Energy Projects Solicitation backs four key technology areas: advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors (SMRs), uprates and upgrades at existing facilities, and front-end nuclear projects.

According to Peter Davidson, executive director of the DOE’s Loan Programs Office (LPO), “any technology that meets the eligibility requirements is welcome to apply,” but the four areas are of “particular interest.”

“Advanced nuclear reactors” include projects with “evolutionary, state-of-the-art design improvements in the areas of fuel technology, thermal efficiency, modularized construction, safety systems, and standardized design,” he said.  The DOE is also seeking SMR projects, typically 300 MW or smaller,  and uprate and upgrade projects, which use an “innovative technology to improve an existing reactor by increasing efficiency, increasing capacity or making critical improvements that are integral to current or future facility operations.”

The DOE, meanwhile, specified that $2 billion of the $12.5 billion available under the solicitation will be available exclusively for front-end projects. These include uranium conversion or enrichment, as well as nuclear fuel fabrication.

DOE loan guarantee applications typically undergo a two-part review: Part I determines the initial eligibility of a project and whether it is ready to proceed, and Part II, for applications that clear Part I, includes the full application process. The LPO then grants a conditional commitment to selected applicants, who next undergo the complete underwriting process and negotiation of terms for the loan guarantee. The first deadline for Part I applications for the solicitation announced today is March 18, 2015.

Today’s solicitation means the LPO now has open solicitations in four areas, including the $8 billion Advanced Fossil Energy Projects Solicitation, the $4 billion Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Solicitation, and the $16 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program  To date, the agency has disbursed $32.4 billion to 30 projects under Section 1703 ($8.33 billion to Southern Co.’s Vogtle reactors and $2 billion to AREVA’s Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility), Section 1705 (which expired in September 2011 and furnished mostly renewables, transmission, or biofuels projects with loan guarantees), and advanced technology vehicles manufacturing.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)