The Biden administration has earmarked some $6 billion to support nuclear power plants across the United States and extend their lives, the Department of Energy said in a press release.
Calling nuclear power “the nation’s largest source of clean energy,” the DOE said the money will be used as grants for the owners or operators of nuclear power plants.
“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.
“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.”
The energy transition agenda of the Biden administration features nuclear power as a source of no-emission electricity, but the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council last year issued a report that listed nuclear power alongside fossil fuel procurement, carbon capture and storage, and cap and trade as “Examples of the Types of Projects That Will Not Benefit a Community.”
There are 93 nuclear reactors in the United States in operation to date. They account for more than 50 percent of the country’s zero-emission electricity generation. Yet since 2013, 12 reactors have been shut down because of unfavorable economics amid greater competition from gas-fired generation and wind and solar.
Indeed, some have argued that nuclear plants should be shut down because they cannot compete with other sources of electricity, especially the—at the time—increasingly cheaper wind and solar.
Yet nuclear has one big advantage over wind and solar, and this is the fact that nuclear, like fossil fuels and unlike wind and solar, is dispatchable. It is likely because of this advantage that the White House is seeking to prolong the lives of U.S. reactors with the $6-billion cash injection.