Bipartisan senators seek to revive nuclear energy investment
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced a nuclear energy bill with a group of bipartisan senators Thursday, seeking more action from the Department of Energy (DOE) in support of advanced nuclear energy goals.
The bill would extend the maximum length for federal power purchase agreements (PPA) from 10 years to 40, to accommodate the long life and costs of nuclear plants.
The bill also seeks to enhance federal investment in the nuclear industry, establishing facilities to test and develop advanced nuclear reactors and to develop domestic capabilities to produce the type of uranium needed for advanced reactors.
While nuclear advocates are already lauding the ambitious scope of the bill, it may not have much chance to pass based on other policy priorities this late into the legislative session.
“But it will definitely be a top priority for us next year and shows very solid bipartisan momentum for advanced nuclear,” Darren Goode, spokesperson for the conservative consulting group ClearPath, wrote Utility Dive via email.
ClearPath supports advanced nuclear reactor development and the group’s president, Jay Faison, recently penned a piece with Murkowski regarding the need for nuclear energy in rural communities.
“Whether it gets done in this session or it gets reintroduced the next session, directionally, I think it’s a key message from the congress to the executive branch,” Chris Colbert, chief strategy officer for the advanced nuclear developer NuScale Power, told Utility Dive.
NuScale is the closest company to commercial deployment of a small modular reactor in the U.S., with the first plant to use NuScale technology scheduled to be online in 2026, Colbert said. The PPA extension would “clearly help with near-term deployment for the NuScale plant,” he said. The plant will have a 60-year life, making the possibility of a 40-year PPA “that much stronger to help with the project.”