Biden announces $6bn bailout for nuclear power plants to ramp up carbon-free power

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President Joe Biden has announced a $6bn bail-out for struggling nuclear power plants, citing its role in transitioning the US away from dependency on fossil fuels.

The US Department of Energy told the Associated Press on Tuesday that a civil nuclear credit program has opened with the intention of bailing out financially “distressed owners or operators of nuclear power reactors”.

Owners or operators of nuclear power reactors that are expected to shut down for economic reasons can apply for funding to avoid closing prematurely. The first round of awards will prioritize reactors that have already announced plans to close.

The second round will be aimed at more economically at-risk facilities. The program is funded through President Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, which became law in November.

The Independent has contacted the Department of Energy for comment.

“We’re using every tool available to get this country powered by clean energy by 2035, and that includes prioritizing our existing nuclear fleet to allow for continued emissions-free electricity generation and economic stability for the communities leading this important work,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told AP in a statement.

Most nuclear plants in the US were built between 1970 and 1990 and have growing costs. The only nuclear plant under construction in the United States is in Georgia where the price has ballooned and delays have been repeated.

Nuclear power is a highly contentious issue and source of much public wariness. However a survey earlier this year found that about two-thirds of US states include the energy source, in one way or another, in plans to decarbonize their electricity grids by 2035.

Critics point to the risks of radioactive waste, that can remain a threat for millennia, and the past disasters of Japan’s Fukushima, Chernobyl in Ukraine and in the US, Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

Nuclear power advocates, including Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, say that the technology has come a long way and that smaller, cheaper reactors are now possible.

”If we’re serious about solving climate change, and quite frankly we have to be, the first thing we should do is keep safe reactors operating,” Mr Gates said in an interview last year.

But “even then, just maintaining that status quo is not enough. We need more nuclear power to zero out emissions in America and to prevent a climate disaster,” he told CNBC.

Mr Gates’ start-up company, TerraPower, plans to build a new nuclear reactor in Kemmerer, Wyoming, a town which once centered around the coal industry.

AP contributed to this article

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