The US nuclear power industry has been trying to overcome negative stereotypes since the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania suffered a partial collapse in 1979, but has only fallen out of favor for more than 40 years.
This week, it is finally beaming with positivity: In the fine print of the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that became law on Monday, there is $ 6 billion in subsidies for struggling reactors. The sudden enrichment is due to the fact that the carbon neutral means of nuclear are back in fashion, glowing green for policymakers seeking to eliminate emissions.
Nuclear power has provided about 20% of America’s energy for 30 years, but the state governments of Connecticut, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey have all had to step in with hundreds of millions of dollars to keep their nuclear generators afloat. This is because nuclear operators have been underestimated by cheap natural gas and renewable generators that are backed by subsidies.
Although left out in the less subsidized cold, nuclear power is responsible for half of America’s zero carbon production. This means that the Biden administration, with its ambitious climate goals, has called for the $ 6 billion to prevent the 93 operating reactors in the country, which are critically endangered, from rotting to the core:
- 13 U.S. reactors have been shut down since 2013 – Indian Point in New York was the latest casualty when it closed in April, and Diablo Canyon in California is expected to cool down in 2025.
- More than 50% of US nuclear power plants are on track to retire by 2030, research firm Rhodium Group estimated earlier this year.
Fission Expedition: The $ 6 billion might not last long: It would take an average of $ 814 million a year to bring nuclear power plants back to balance, according to a 2018 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. However, it could serve as a bridge if Congress passes a production tax credit, worth $ 15 per megawatt hour, which operators say would be even more lucrative than a bailout.
Go small or go home: Don’t expect more large nuclear power plants – only one is under construction in the United States and the costs of the Georgia facility have doubled to $ 28 billion – but the proposed tax credit program could result in to small modular reactors, which many believe to be the best hope for carbon neutrality in the short term.