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News Reactor | January 2023

January 26, 2023

NLWG Update

NLWG Fall Meeting in New Orleans

NCSL’s Nuclear Legislative Working Group met in New Orleans on Nov. 29 to discuss a variety of topics, including sessions highlighting recent state and federal legislation to support new and existing nuclear reactors. The group heard from topic experts on recently enacted state and federal programs to support existing reactors, in addition to presentations outlining nuclear-related provisions from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. NLWG members also participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Intergovernmental Groups meeting on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, which focused on issues related to the cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex.

NCSL Reviews State Nuclear Policy

NCSL staff contributed to the latest issue of the “Journal of Critical Infrastructure Policy,” which contains several articles focusing on nuclear power in the U.S. and its role in decarbonization, economic development and resilience. NCSL’s article, Nuclear Policy in the States: A National Review,” highlights recent state and federal policies to support the existing fleet of nuclear reactors and incentivize the development of the next generation of nuclear power technologies.

State Legislative Update

Indiana Considers Upping SMR Capacity

The state legislature will consider SB 176 to alter the definition and requirements of small reactors, specifically changing generating capacity defining the small modular reactor from 350 megawatts to 470 megawatts.

Oklahoma Weighs Microreactors to Diversify Energy Mix

The state filed SB 206, which would approve the construction of a micro-nuclear plant in the state. Sponsor Nathan Dahm (R) urged the state to diversify their energy portfolio beyond wind and solar.  

Michigan Studies its Nuclear Future

Operators of the Palisades plant plan to apply again for federal funding to operate the plant after closing last May. Additionally, the legislature passed HB6019 directing the state to study the feasibility of new nuclear power in the state. The study will consider nuclear’s financial and environmental tradeoffs, and how the state could build an industry around emerging technology like SMRs.

North Carolina Adopts Plan That Could Benefit Nuclear  

As required under recent legislation, the North Carolina Utilities Commission adopted a carbon plan that’s positive for nuclear.  The plan’s overall goal is to reduce emissions by 70%, and focuses on multiple energy sources including solar generation and storage, along with the continued retirement of coal generation. The state currently has five reactors which contribute to about 70% of the state’s carbon-free generation and the new proposal announces the intention to extend current licenses and begin the planning process for the construction of new small modular reactors.  

Nebraska Lawmakers Could Form SMR Study Committee 

Nebraska introduced a legislative resolution to form a study committee to assess small modular nuclear reactors, examining the feasibility of converting fossil fuel plants to nuclear plants using such small modular reactors.

State Spotlight

Virginia’s Governor Announces a Plan to Expand Nuclear Power

Governor Youngkin laid out a 29-page state energy plan that calls for expanding nuclear power in the state, including a goal of deploying an SMR within 10 years and creating a nuclear energy research hub. The plan is a response to the 2020 Virginia Clean Energy Act (VCEA), which sets a goal to reach 100% renewables. Youngkin’s plan is not yet legislation, but the Governor indicates that the 2020 VCEA is restrictive and does not include enough options for consumers. The state also is collaborating with West Virginia on nuclear technology. Virginia currently has four reactors, while West Virginia has no nuclear power facilities.

California’s Diablo Canyon Hopes to Extend Operation

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant as the recipient of the first Civil Nuclear Credits from the recently created federal program to support existing reactors. The plant currently is set to operate until 2024 and 2025, but the state and PG&E are making efforts to extend operation until 2029 and 2030. According to previous legislation, the state has until the end of 2023 to decide on new retirement dates.

Georgia’s Vogtle Reactor Delayed with Cooling Issues

Vogtle update: In late 2022, a cost forecast for the plant was announced, with cost estimates decreased from previous numbers. Separately, Unit 3’s start date has been delayed after Georgia Power detected issues in cooling.  The state and developers continue to advocate for the opportunity the reactors will create, despite the construction obstacles.

New York Nuclear Plant to Produce Clean Hydrogen

DOE’s nuclear-powered hydrogen demonstration project at the Nine Mile Point nuclear plant in New York expects to begin producing hydrogen before the end of 2023. The project is part of the effort to change the reliance on natural gas to produce hydrogen and create clean hydrogen fuel in the U.S.

Federal Focus

National Lab Makes History with Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough

DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Lab made history with a nuclear fusion breakthrough.  The breakthrough is the first time scientists have created more energy through fusion than the fusion itself requires. Though the wide use of technology is estimated to be 1-2 decades in the future, many private companies are seeking sites to develop fusion technology and hope the breakthrough encourages more funding and development.

NRC Certifies First Small Modular Reactor Design

NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR) design has received certification from the U.S. NRC. This is the first approved design in the U.S., making the design available to license for building and operating. NuScale's reactor is designed to generate 50 megawatts of electricity and are about a third of the size of large reactors. The certification comes at a time when many states and countries are developing plans to use small modular reactors, which require less time to construct and require less space and water compared to large reactors.

NE Names New Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

The DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) has named a new Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. Dr. Michael Goff, who has over 30 years working in research and policy advising in the U.S., will help manage NE’s research and development in the effort to reach 100% clean energy by 2050. Before this new position, Dr. Goff served as Senior Advisor to NE at Idaho National Laboratory.

EM’s Year in Review Available

The DOE’s Office of Environmental Management’s (EM) 2022 Year in Review is published. Highlights include the exhumation of 5.69 acres in Idaho, the construction of a protective “cocoon” around the K East Reactor at Washington’s Hanford Site, and the disposal of 13 million tons of uranium mill tailings in Utah’s Moab Site.

DOE Assesses Opportunity for the Future of Nuclear Energy

Coal plant sites could host 265 GW of advanced nuclear, costing 35% less than greenfield projects, according to a new DOE report. The report may be encouraging to states that are interested in reusing coal plants for new reactor development. The DOE has also published a report explaining the six steps they are taking to address spent nuclear fuel, based on comments on consent-based process. The summary of comments and next steps of the consent-based siting process in 2022.

PacifiCorp Further Examines Coal-to-Nuclear Conversions

PacifiCorp, a large Western utility, is continuing to examine coal-to-nuclear within its portfolio and is considering replacing five fossil plants with a combination of nuclear power and storage. The assessment is in collaboration with TerraPower, an advanced reactor company with whom they plan to repurpose a Wyoming coal plant. 

Air Force Accepting Proposals for Microreactor Project in Alaska

The U.S. Air Force is soliciting proposals for microreactor pilot projects located at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. The microreactor must meet a baseload demand of 5 MW. DOD hopes to select a contractor by 2023 and begin construction in 2025.

IRA Funding Advances Domestic HALEU Production

High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) production development is expected in the next year after the IRA has designated $500 million to HALEU research. Previously, the U.S. estimated that 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed in the next 10 years in order to operate new advanced reactors. DOE research will test HALEU production in Ohio to demonstrate the opportunity for domestic production.

DOE To Announce Second Round Civil Nuclear Credits by End of 2023

After awarding the first conditional credits in November of 2022 to Diablo Canyon in California, the DOE expects to launch the second award cycle in the second quarter of 2023. The DOE will announce application guidance and requirements in 2023 and reports that eligibility will change from the first cycle. More information and announcements are available on the Civil Nuclear Credit’s FAQ page.

International Notes

U.S. and Japan Establish Plan for Developing Nuclear Reactors

The U.S. and Japan have strengthened collaboration on developing reactors, establishing a plan to construct next-generation reactors and small nuclear reactors in countries that may not have the resources to construct nuclear energy on their own and are currently relying on fossil fuels. The countries have also begun research on fast reactor fuel safety at Idaho National Laboratory, where they are testing conditions more extreme than existing commercial reactions to assess fuel performance.

Poland Selects U.S. Company for Its First Reactor

Poland’s efforts to construct nuclear power plants to reduce dependence on Russia have advanced as the country selected a U.S.-based company to build its first reactor.  The reactor will also help Poland advance its goals of moving away from a coal-dependent portfolio. The country is outspoken about its efforts to reduce its reliance on Russian energy. The country hopes to have an operational plant by 2033.

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