Biden’s Brilliance Advances Nuclear

The Biden-Harris Administration held a summit on Domestic Nuclear Deployment and announced major new steps to bolster the U.S. domestic nuclear industry and advance America’s (and likely the whole world’s) clean energy future. This is political leadership, informed by science, industry, policy, practice and realism, at its best. The effects of Biden’s brilliance in this area—with his focus on accelerating the deployment of the only energy technology that can compete head to head with fossil fuels—can make a real difference in how quickly and cost-effectively next generation nuclear will get to market and is exactly what we need to finally enable us to move the needle on climate.  

According to numerous analyses, the Biden Administration is taking decisive steps to support the construction of large-scale nuclear reactors, crucial for meeting our clean energy goals, as well as supporting the licensing and development of next-generation nuclear power plants. The White House has formed an expert group whose focus and mission will be to work on solving the problems that are cause delays to new projects and thus eliminate, reduce or mitigate industry risks to ensure timely completion of projects and bolster progress towards a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.  The text of the White House Fact Sheet is so perfect, it is better to reprint it than attempt to summarize it.  See the first few paragraphs below, but click the links to go directly to the sources.

For decades, nuclear power has been the largest source of clean energy in the United States, accounting for 19% of total energy produced last year. The industry directly employs nearly 60,000 workers in good paying jobs, maintains these jobs for decades, and supports hundreds of thousands of other workers.  In the midst of transformational changes taking place throughout the U.S. energy system, the Biden-Harris Administration is continuing to build on President Biden’s unprecedented goal of a carbon free electricity sector by 2035 while also ensuring that consumers across the country have access to affordable, reliable electric power, and creating good-paying clean energy jobs. Alongside renewable power sources like wind and solar, a new generation of nuclear reactors is now capturing the attention of a wide range of stakeholders for nuclear energy’s ability to produce clean, reliable energy and meet the needs of a fast-growing economy, driven by President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and manufacturing boom. The Administration recognizes that decarbonizing our power system, which accounts for a quarter of all the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, represents a pivotal challenge requiring all the expertise and ingenuity our nation can deliver.

The Biden-Harris Administration is today hosting a White House Summit on Domestic Nuclear Deployment, highlighting the collective progress being made from across the public and private sectors. Under President Biden’s leadership, the Administration has taken a number of actions to strengthen our nation’s energy and economic security by reducing – and putting us on the path to eliminating – our reliance on Russian uranium for civil nuclear power and building a new supply chain for nuclear fuel, including: signing on to last year’s multi-country declaration at COP28 to triple nuclear energy capacity globally by 2050; developing new reactor designs; extending the service lives of existing nuclear reactors; and growing the momentum behind new deployments. Recognizing the importance of both the existing U.S. nuclear fleet and continued build out of large nuclear power plants, the U.S. is also taking steps to mitigate project risks associated with large nuclear builds and position U.S. industry to support an aggressive deployment target.

To help drive reactor deployment while ensuring ratepayers and project stakeholders are better protected, theAdministration is announcing today the creation of a Nuclear Power Project Management and Delivery working group that will draw on leading experts from across the nuclear and megaproject construction industry to help identify opportunities to proactively mitigate sources of cost and schedule overrun risk. Working group members will be made up of federal government entities, including the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the White House Office of Clean Energy Innovation & Implementation, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Department of Energy.  The working group will engage a range of stakeholders, including project developers, engineering, procurement and construction firms, utilities, investors, labor organizations, academics, and NGOs, which will each offer individual views on how to help further the Administration’s goal of delivering an efficient and cost-effective deployment of clean, reliable nuclear energy and ensuring that learnings translate to cost savings for future construction and deployment.

The United States Army is also announcing that it will soon release a Request for Information to inform a deployment program for advanced reactors to power multiple Army sites in the United States. Small modular nuclear reactors and microreactors can provide defense installations resilient energy for several years amid the threat of physical or cyberattacks, extreme weather, pandemic biothreats, and other emerging challenges that can all disrupt commercial energy networks.  Alongside the current defense programs through the Department of the Air Force microreactor pathfinder at Eielson AFB and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) Project Pele prototype transportable microreactor protype, the Army is taking a key role in exploring the deployment of advanced  reactors that help meet their energy needs. These efforts will help inform the regulatory and supply chain pathways that will pave the path for additional deployments of advanced nuclear technology to provide clean, reliable energy for federal installations and other critical infrastructure.

Additionally, the Department of Energy released today a new primer highlighting the expected enhanced safety of advanced nuclear reactors including passive core cooling capabilities and advanced fuel designs. Idaho National Laboratory is also releasing a new advanced nuclear reactor capital cost reduction pathway tool that will help developers and stakeholders to assess cost drivers for new projects.

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