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Biden administration launches $6 billion credit program for nuclear power

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday opened applications for a $6 billion program to help nuclear power plants struggling with rising costs as it seeks to keep generators from shutting down as part of its objective of transition to clean energy.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the 93 reactors of the American nuclear industry produce more than half of the country’s carbon-free electricity. But 12 reactors have closed since 2013 in the face of competition from renewable energies and power plants that burn abundant natural gas.

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In addition, security costs skyrocketed after the 2011 tsunami at Japan’s Fukushima power plant and after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The industry produces toxic waste, currently stored onsite in factories across 28 states. .

The DOE said it would accept applications from nuclear plant owners for the first round of funding for its civilian nuclear credit program through May 19. It will give priority to reactors that have already announced their intention to close. The program, for plants located in states with competitive electricity markets, was funded by the infrastructure bill passed last year.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the administration is “using every tool available” to power the country with clean energy by 2035, a goal of President Joe Biden, including prioritizing nuclear power. existing.

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The $6 billion funding is designed to be phased in. The DOE can appropriate $1.2 billion over the next four years, with the latest four-year period ending in 2035. Officials said in February they hope the program could begin to help one or more factories this year.

PG&E, whose plan to shut down its two Diablo Canyon reactors in California in 2024 and 2025 has been approved by the state legislature and regulators, said the nuclear credit program would not change its plan immediately.

“As a regulated utility, we are required to follow state energy policies,” PG&E spokeswoman Suzanne Hosn said when asked about the DOE program. “At this time, the state has not changed its position regarding the future of nuclear power in California.”

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The program could help a range of utilities, including PSEG and Constellation Energy Corp, which currently do not have plans to close any plants.

The plan was hailed by Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat who has so far thwarted Biden’s clean energy legislation in the massive Build Back Better bill, which included billions more in appropriations. tax for the production of nuclear energy. Manchin has said in recent weeks that he could agree to narrower legislation that makes investments to tackle climate change.

“This program will keep our reactors operating, preserve American jobs, reduce emissions and enhance our energy security,” Manchin said. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler)



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