White House summit pledges to support nuclear development

09 November 2015

The US Administration has underlined its vision of a strong role for nuclear in the country's clean energy strategy. It has announced actions to sustain and finance nuclear energy, including supplements to the Department of Energy's (DOE's) federal loan guarantee solicitation to support nuclear energy projects.

At the White House summit on nuclear energy, held on 6 November, the Administration announced that the DOE's existing solicitation of $12.5 billion in loan guarantees available to support innovative nuclear energy projects would be supplemented. The solicitation for projects, including the construction of advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors, uprates and upgrades at existing facilities, and front-end nuclear facilities eligible for such support, was announced in December 2014. The new supplement clarifies that costs incurred by an eligible project as part of the NRC licensing process, such as design certification, construction permits, combined construction and operating licences, might also be eligible for a DOE loan guarantee.

DOE loan guarantees support projects that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions and employ "new or significantly improved" technologies by enabling them to secure private finance. The DOE's loan programs office currently supports a portfolio of over $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees and commitments to energy projects including nuclear and renewable energy.

The summit also saw the launch of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), established by the DOE to provide the nuclear energy community with single-point access to nuclear energy-related capabilities and expertise across the DOE complex. Initially coordinated by the Idaho National Laboratory, GAIN aims to provide access to technical, regulatory and financial support necessary to move new or advanced nuclear reactor designs toward commercialization while ensuring the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the existing nuclear fleet.

As well as providing access to capabilities, GAIN will feature the DOE-published Nuclear Energy Infrastructure Database (NEID), providing a catalogue of existing nuclear energy-related infrastructure. It will also include a scheme to provide assistance to small business applicants, including entrepreneur-led start-ups, seeking to access to expertise available across the DOE complex through a small business voucher scheme. The DOE plans to make $2 million available for the vouchers, the statement said.

Other actions highlighted by the White House include workshops and working groups on light water and non-light water reactor technologies, plus support for small modular reactor licensing, and simulation and control room development for light-water reactors.

Opening the summit, John Holdren, assistant to President Barack Obama on science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said: "President Obama considers addressing the global climate change challenge to be a top priority."

Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) president and CEO Marvin Fertel said that the NEI and its members greatly appreciated the Administration's decision to hold the summit ahead of upcoming international climate change talks to be held in Paris in December. "In the United States, nuclear energy is by far the largest source of zero-carbon power, generating 63% of the electricity from emission-free sources. This reality makes it clear that any credible, sustainable program to reduce carbon emissions must preserve existing reactors, encourage licence renewal and encourage the construction of new nuclear energy facilities," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News