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Government Power United States

The power-plays dept. posted on Saturday April 23, 2022, at 10:34AM.

The U.S. government "is launching a $6 billion effort to rescue nuclear power plants at risk of closing," reports the Associated Press, "citing the need to continue nuclear energy as a carbon-free source of power that helps to combat climate change." A certification and bidding process opened Tuesday for a civil nuclear credit program that is intended to bail out financially distressed owners or operators of nuclear power reactors, the U.S. Department of Energy told The Associated Press exclusively, shortly before the official announcement. It's the largest federal investment in saving financially distressed nuclear reactors... "U.S. nuclear power plants contribute more than half of our carbon-free electricity, and President Biden is committed to keeping these plants active to reach our clean energy goals," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. "We're using every tool available to get this country powered by clean energy by 2035, and that includes prioritizing our existing nuclear fleet to allow for continued emissions-free electricity generation and economic stability for the communities leading this important work...." A dozen U.S. commercial nuclear power reactors have closed in the past decade before their licenses expired, largely due to competition from cheaper natural gas, massive operating losses due to low electricity prices and escalating costs, or the cost of major repairs. This has led to a rise in emissions in those regions, poorer air quality and the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs, dealing an economic blow to local communities, according to the Department of Energy. A quarter or more of the fleet is at risk, the Department of Energy added. The owners of seven currently operating reactors have already announced plans to retire them through 2025.... Twenty more reactors faced closure in the last decade before states stepped in to save them, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute , the industry's trade association.... Low electricity prices are the main cause of this trend, though federal and state policies to boost wind and solar have contributed as well, the NEI added. There are 55 commercial nuclear power plants with 93 nuclear reactors in 28 U.S. states. Nuclear power already provides about 20% of electricity in the U.S., or about half the nation's carbon-free energy. If reactors do close before their licenses expire, fossil fuel plants will likely fill the void and emissions will increase, which would be a substantial setback, said Andrew Griffith, acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy at DOE. While natural gas may be cheaper, nuclear power hasn't been given credit for its carbon-free contribution to the grid and that has caused nuclear plants to struggle financially, Griffith added....

David Schlissel, at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said he wishes the federal government had looked at whether the money could have been better spent on ramping up renewables, battery storage and energy efficiency projects.


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