A bipartisan bill extending a production tax credit (PTC) for advanced nuclear power facilities passed the U.S. House on a voice vote on June 20.

The bill, introduced by Congressman Tom Rice (R-S.C.), seeks to give facilities that use novel nuclear power technologies more investment certainty.

The nuclear PTC was established under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to spur a nuclear renaissance, designed to encourage more investment in public-private partnerships in the development of new nuclear facilities. However, a  nuclear renaissance has failed to emerge owing to a number of factors, and only the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 reactor has come online since then.

According to Rep. Rice, “under current law, ratepayers to for-profit partners receive savings from the credit, while ratepayers to nonprofit partners do not.”

Rice said the bill amends the law “to ensure the credit works as it was originally intended to benefit both nonprofit and for-profit investors.”

The measure would allow, for example, nonprofits involved in the construction of four AP1000 units in Georgia and South Carolina to use the full amount of the PTC, allowing them to pass rate savings onto customers.

Significantly, it would also remove the requirement that new nuclear facilities be placed into service by the end of 2020 to get the PTC. Facilities that come online after 2020 may still qualify for the PTC.

Both AP1000 reactor projects are currently years behind schedule and billions over budget. Their continuation is under review. On June 9, Toshiba, the parent company of Westinghouse, and Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power, majority owner of Plant Vogtle near Augusta, reached a deal in which Toshiba promised to pay Georgia Power $3.68 billion beginning in October 2017 through January 2021. Georgia Power and Vogtle’s co-owners are still working out its full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis.

At V.C. Summer in South Carolina, an interim assessment agreement reached between SCANA Corp. and Westinghouse is expected to expire on June 26, and stakeholders have been examining the most prudent path forward.

Only one Democrat, Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, opposed the bill on Tuesday. Doggett characterized the bill as a “gift” to the nuclear sector, underscoring that it doesn’t do enough to guarantee environmental stewardship.

Companion legislation has been introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) in the Senate.

 

 

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)