The US Department of Energy has announced plans to seek applications and sealed bid submissions under the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Programme to support the continued operation of US nuclear reactors, the country’s largest source of ‘clean’ energy. The DoE has published guidance which shows owners or operators of nuclear power reactors that are expected to shut down due to economic circumstances on how to apply for funding to avoid premature closure. This includes instructions on formulating and submitting sealed bids for allocation of credits. This investment, made possible by president Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is intended to help avoid premature retirements of reactors across the country due to financial hardship and protect the country’s supply of carbon-free electricity generation.  

“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,” stated US secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “We’re using every tool available to get this country powered by clean energy by 2035, and that includes prioritising our existing nuclear fleet to allow for continued emissions-free electricity generation and economic stability for the communities leading this important work.”   

Shifting energy markets and other economic factors have resulted in the early closure of 12 commercial reactors across the United States since 2013. This is considered to have led to a rise in emissions in those regions, poorer air quality, the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs, essential employers and financial contributors to local communities.

As urged by many public commenters during the Request for Information (RFI) period earlier this year, the first CNC award cycle will prioritise reactors that have already announced their intention to cease operations. Future CNC award cycles – including for the second to be launched in the first quarter in FY2023 – will not be limited to nuclear reactors that have publicly announced their intention to retire.  

For the first CNC award period, DOE is accepting certification applications and bid as a single submission to implement the programme on a more rapid timeline.