Loan guarantee solicitation for advanced nuclear

30 September 2014

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced a significant step to help meet America's future low-carbon goals with the release by its Loan Programs Office (LPO) of a draft $12.6 billion loan guarantee solicitation for advanced nuclear energy projects.

"If you want to fight climate change, nuclear power has to play a role. This solicitation can help build new nuclear power plants with enhanced safety features and zero emissions. That's a win for the climate, our energy mix, and American innovation," LPO executive director Peter Davidson said.

"The nuclear industry used to be one-size fits all – but no more. We designed our new solicitation around the activity we're seeing in the marketplace. That includes traditional reactors, SMRs, and innovative uprates that can increase output at existing facilities," he said.

In February, Davidson and US energy secretary Ernest Moniz travelled to Georgia to announce $6.5 billion in loan guarantees to support the first new nuclear power plant to begin construction in nearly three decades. The project at the Vogtle nuclear power plant involves construction of two new reactors that will produce enough clean electricity to power nearly 1.5 million average American homes. At the same time, this project will help fight climate change by avoiding the emission of about 10 million tonnes per year of carbon dioxide.

While the Vogtle project represents an important advance in nuclear technology, other innovative nuclear projects may be unable to obtain full commercial financing due to the perceived risks associated with technology that has never been deployed at commercial scale in the US, Davidson said. The loan guarantees from this draft solicitation would support advanced nuclear energy technologies that will "catalyze the deployment of future projects that replicate or extend a technological innovation".

In support of that goal, DoE has identified four key technology areas of interest - advanced nuclear reactors; small modular reactors; uprates and upgrades at existing facilities; and advanced nuclear facilities for the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle.

"We hope this solicitation will help to accelerate the commercial deployment of advanced nuclear energy technologies the way that previous solicitations have helped to accelerate advanced technologies like utility-scale solar photovoltaics, solar thermal energy storage, and electric vehicles," Davidson said. "We've already started by helping to finance the Vogtle project and we look forward to continuing through this solicitation."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News