Emissions, Nuclear

Senate energy panel OKs legislation containing incentives for nuclear power plant construction

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10, 2003 — The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) welcomed the advancement in the U.S. Senate on Thursday of legislation that strengthens U.S. energy security by providing incentives for increased use of nuclear power in the nation’s diverse portfolio of electricity sources.

During the markup of a comprehensive energy bill, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved provisions authored by committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) that would:
• stimulate construction of several new nuclear power plants through loan guarantees or power purchase agreements prior to plant operation;

• permanently reauthorize the Price-Anderson Act that sets the framework for the liability insurance coverage that nuclear power plant owners purchase;

• and establish an advanced reactor project to demonstrate both electricity and hydrogen production.

“The nuclear power provisions in Senator Domenici’s comprehensive energy bill are an important step forward to strengthen the nation’s energy security,” said NEI’s president and chief executive officer, Joe F. Colvin. “This legislation provides a strong foundation for the electric industry to build a new generation of advanced-design reactors that will help satisfy energy and environmental demands for future generations.”

The provisions approved by the committee reinforce the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 Initiative to deploy new nuclear plants by the end of the decade, as well as the industry’s Vision 2020 initiative to add 50,000 megawatts of new generating capacity to the electrical grid over the next two decades.

Nuclear power plants operating in 31 states already provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses, and provide about 70 percent of the electricity that comes from sources that don’t pollute the air.

Domenici’s legislation seeks to assure that nuclear energy remains a key element of the nation’s diverse energy portfolio by reducing the uncertainty faced by decision makers considering construction of such a capital-intensive project under the untested federal government licensing regime for new nuclear plants established in the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

The new authority conferred on the Secretary of Energy would allow him to provide financial assistance in the form of loan guarantees and agreements by large electricity users to purchase the power from new, advanced-design nuclear power plants. Total federal financial assistance per project could not exceed 50 percent of the eligible project costs, and the total generation capacity of all projects receiving assistance cannot exceed 8,400 megawatts. The 103 nuclear reactors operating today have a combined generating capacity of about 98,000 megawatts.

The assistance is limited to 50 percent of “eligible project costs,” which includes possible cost increases resulting from regulatory or licensing delays. The bill gives the Energy Secretary one year to establish regulations implementing the new authority.

The Senate energy bill indefinitely reauthorizes the Price-Anderson Act, first enacted in 1957 and repeatedly renewed in 10- and 15-year increments. Price-Anderson reauthorization was one of the few items agreed to by House and Senate conferees on comprehensive energy legislation that stalled in the final days of the 107th Congress.

Domenici’s bill also directs the Secretary of Energy to undertake a project to demonstrate production of hydrogen using an advanced reactor design, and it provides the authorization needed for the Department of Energy to conduct various research and development programs and to support university nuclear science and engineering programs.

“Senator Domenici’s determination to shape an effective energy policy for the benefit of American families and businesses is widely recognized. This legislation reflects his commitment to bring about a more secure energy future for our nation. The nuclear energy industry commends him for it, and pledges to work with him and with other members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to advance a bill that has bipartisan support on the Senate floor,” Colvin said.