Nuclear power generated 60 percent of carbon-free electricity in 2014 and the Obama Administration was committed to combating climate change using all means, including nuclear. The continued development of new and advanced nuclear technologies along with support for currently operating nuclear power plants was seen as an important component of the U.S. clean energy strategy. Investing in the safe and secure development of nuclear power also helps advance other vital policy objectives including economic competitiveness, job creation, enhancing nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear safety and security, and energy security.
Obama’s FY 2016 budget included more than $900 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) to support the U.S. civilian nuclear energy sector. The DOE also supported the deployment of advanced technologies with $12.5 billion in remaining loan guarantee authority for advanced nuclear projects.The DOE’s investments in nuclear energy help secure energy security, economic competitiveness, and environmental responsibility.
The White House also announced that they:
- Launched the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear: The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) to move new or advanced nuclear reactor designs toward commercialization while ensuring the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the existing nuclear fleet. GAIN provides a single point of access to the broad range of capabilities – people, facilities, materials, and data – across the DOE complex and its National Lab capabilities. GAIN will feature:
- Access to Capabilities: Through the Clean Energy Investment Center in DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT), GAIN will provide a single point of contact for users interested in a wide range of nuclear energy related capabilities and expertise. The Idaho National Lab will serve as the GAIN integrator.
- Nuclear Energy Infrastructure Database: DOE is also publishing the Nuclear Energy Infrastructure database (NEID), which provides a catalogue of existing nuclear energy related infrastructure that will enhance transparency and support nuclear community engagement through GAIN. NEID currently includes information on 802 research and development instruments in 377 facilities at 84 institutions in the United States and abroad.
- Small Business Vouchers: To support new companies working to develop advanced nuclear energy technologies, DOE plans to make $2 million available in the form of vouchers for those seeking to access the knowledge and capabilities available across the DOE complex. This will enhance the ability of GAIN to serve a broader segment of the nuclear community.
- Assist with the Regulatory Process: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will provide DOE with accurate, current information on the NRC’s regulations and licensing processes. DOE will work through GAIN with prospective applicants for advanced nuclear technology to understand and navigate the regulatory process for licensing new reactor technology.
- Hosting Workshops on Advanced Non-Light Water Reactors – A successful first workshop was held in September 2015 and the NRC and DOE will hold another Advanced Non-Light Water Reactors Workshop in spring 2016. The workshop will explore options for increased efficiency, from both a technical and regulatory perspective, in the safe development and deployment of innovative reactor technologies, examining both near-term and longer-term opportunities to test, demonstrate, and construct prototype advanced reactors.
- Supplementing Loan Guarantee Solicitation for Nuclear Energy: The DOE makes up to $12.5 billion in loan guarantees available to support innovative nuclear energy projects. Previously, eligible projects included construction of advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors, uprates and upgrades at existing facilities, and front-end nuclear facilities. Going forward, project costs for an eligible project that are incurred as part of the NRC licensing process, such as design certification, construction permits, and combined construction and operating licenses (COL), are eligible costs that may be financed with a loan guaranteed by DOE.
- Establishing Light Water Reactor (LWR) Research, Development, and Deployment Working Group: DOE is formally announcing the establishment of the LWR Research, Development, and Deployment (RDD) Working Group to examine possible needs for future RDD to support the development of competitive advanced LWRs, as well as maintain the safe, efficient operations of currently operating nuclear power plants. The group will consist of federal, national laboratory, and industry participants.
- Addressing Small Modular Reactor Needs through Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors: The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) signed an agreement with NuScale to establish new cost-shared modeling and simulation tools under the CASL Energy Innovation Hub at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. CASL tools will be expanded to better simulate SMR operation and inform design decisions, leading to more efficient reactor designs that improve lifetime operation in a power plant.
- Investing in SMR Licensing: In 2012, the DOE began investing to support first-of-a-kind engineering costs associated with certification and licensing activities for SMRs through the NRC. By utilizing cost-share agreements with private industry through a licensing technical support program, DOE supports the domestic development of these innovative nuclear technologies, strengthening American manufacturing capabilities, improving domestic employment opportunities, and creating important export opportunities for the United States.
- Designing a Modernized LWR Control Room: DOE is partnering with Arizona Public Service’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station to design a modernized control room for an operating commercial LWR. Working together through a cost-shared partnership, DOE’s LWR Sustainability Program and Palo Verde will consider the best way to replace traditional analog systems with digital systems that optimize control room operations.
Read more in the White House Press Release from November 6, 2015 entitled: “FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces Actions to Ensure that Nuclear Energy Remains a Vibrant Component of the United States’ Clean Energy Strategy.”