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Biden admin offers $1.2 billion for distressed, shut nuclear plants

Published Mar 02, 2023 07:03AM ET Updated Mar 03, 2023 05:11AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: One of the two now closed reactors of the San Onofre nuclear generating station is shown at the nuclear power plant located south of San Clemente, California, U.S., December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake
 
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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Biden administration said on Thursday it is offering $1.2 billion in aid to extend the life of distressed nuclear power plants which, for the first time, could offer funding to a plant that has recently closed.

President Joe Biden's climate team believes nuclear power is a crucial source of virtually carbon-free electricity needed to be maintained and expanded to reach his pledge of what it calls 100% clean electricity by 2035.

But faced with rising security costs and competition from wind and solar energy and power generated with cheap natural gas, about a dozen U.S. reactors have closed since 2013, leaving 92 across the country.

Critics of nuclear power worry about the buildup of radioactive waste stored at plants around the country and warn of the risks to human health and nature, while others have called for nuclear nonproliferation.   

The funding comes from the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit program, created by the 2021 infrastructure law, and will be distributed by the Department of Energy (DOE).

In this second round of program funding, the money is available to plants at risk of closure within a few years, but also for the first time, plants that have stopped operating after Nov. 15, 2021.

"Expanding the scope of this... funding will allow even more nuclear facilities the opportunity to continue operating as economic drivers in local communities that benefit from cheap, clean, and reliable power," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.

That apparently allows the Palisades plant in Michigan to apply. It closed in May 2022, nearly two weeks earlier than its planned date, after then-owner Entergy Corp (NYSE:ETR) discovered a coolant system leak.

Holtec International, the current owner, had applied for the first round of funding, but the DOE rejected it. Holtec's application had surprised some officials because reviving plants after closure would be a costly process and because reopening a decommissioned nuclear plant is associated with potential risks involving radioactive materials.

Holtec's application was rejected despite it being supported by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a letter last year to Granholm, a former governor of the state. The plant provided about 600 highly paid jobs.

(This story has been refiled to fix spelling errors in paragraph 9)

Last month, Holtec, which has said it will take more than $1 billion to reopen Palisades, applied for a different source of funding, from the DOE's Loan Programs Office, to reopen the plant.

"This is great news for the industry, and our country, to consider nuclear so vital for our energy future that the idea of what we are trying to accomplish with Palisades, returning a shutdown nuclear plant back to operation, is something that should happen," Holtec Director of Government Affairs Patrick O'Brien said in an email.

Last year, the DOE provided $1.1 billion in conditional CNC funding to Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon nuclear plant that had been set to fully shut in 2025.

Applications for the current round close on May 31.

Biden admin offers $1.2 billion for distressed, shut nuclear plants
 

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Comments (5)
Garry Masters
Garry Masters Mar 03, 2023 9:34AM ET
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Nuclear should be a big part of our electric infrastructure's growing needs but new tech nuclear is needed and not sure subsidy for old tech nuclear is as appropriate.. probably done because it was only thing that can politically be done now as convincing public and getting funding gor new nuclear (the right thing) is more difficult.
Robert Ruschak
Robert Ruschak Mar 02, 2023 2:42PM ET
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More money wasted … He might as well print $1,000,000 quadrillion dollars for everything …
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Mar 02, 2023 2:42PM ET
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Oh wow so smart thanks for the input Robert!!!
EL LA
EL LA Mar 02, 2023 2:16PM ET
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Let's bury the nuclear waste in his garage.
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Mar 02, 2023 2:16PM ET
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nah, let's bury it in your cave instead. it will keep you warm through the rest of the winter
Mar 02, 2023 1:45PM ET
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Too little too late
Rubbing Hands
Rubbing Hands Mar 02, 2023 10:16AM ET
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waste of money. if they can't compete with cheaper sources, we should fund cheaper sources.
Mark Pedzinski
Mark Pedzinski Mar 02, 2023 10:16AM ET
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should we fund the friction of your rubbing hands to produce electricity
 
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