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Fostering the Next Generation of Nuclear Energy Technology

September 29, 2014 - 11:06am

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Fostering the Next Generation of Nuclear Energy Technology

Today, the Energy Department is announcing a significant step to help meet America’s future low-carbon goals with the release of a draft $12.6 billion loan guarantee solicitation for advanced nuclear energy projects.

If finalized, the Advanced Nuclear Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation will build upon the work the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) is already doing to revitalize America’s nuclear power industry. In February, Secretary Moniz and I 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 Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant involves construction of two new state-of-the-art nuclear 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 keeping about 10 million tons per year of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere – that’s like taking more than 2 million cars off the road every year. 

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 U.S. 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, the Department has identified four key technology areas of interest:

  1. Advanced Nuclear Reactors: This area focuses on nuclear energy projects with evolutionary, state-of-the-art design improvements in the areas of fuel technology, thermal efficiency, modularized construction, safety systems (especially the use of passive rather than active systems), and standardized design.
  2. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs): This area focuses on innovative technologies for nuclear energy projects that are nominally 300 MWe or smaller in size.
  3. Uprates and Upgrades at Existing Facilities: This area focuses on projects consisting of improvements to an existing reactor to increase efficiency and/or capacity or to make critical improvements that are requisite to current or future facility operations.
  4. Front-End Nuclear: This area focuses on advanced nuclear facilities for the “front-end” of the nuclear fuel cycle. Of the $12.6 billion available under this solicitation, $2 billion is available exclusively for “front-end” projects. This could include uranium conversion or enrichment, as well as nuclear fuel fabrication.

As part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy, 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. We’ve already started by helping to finance the Vogtle project and we look forward to continuing through this solicitation.

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