Nuclear wins in US energy bill

21 July 2005

Comprehensive legislation on energy has been passed in the USA covering nuclear energy, energy efficiency, hydrogen and coal.

President Bush's support for nuclear is demonstrated by two main nuclear incentives: a 1.8¢/kWh production tax credit for the first 6000MWe of new nuclear capacity which would apply to plant designs that were approved after 1993; and a system of guarantees would reduce a constructing utilitiy's financial risk exposure to long planning delays. Utilities would be asked to pay a premium for this 'risk insurance' but the premium would be waived for reactor orders placed before 2009 using the Combined Operating License scheme. Up to three different reactor designs could be involved in the programme with the first two eligible for up to $500 million of protection and the other four eligible for $250 million.

The nuclear power title also includes the Next Generation Nuclear Plant project, which will use a advanced nuclear reactor to demonstrate both power and hydrogen production at the Idaho National Laboratory. Appropriations for the project include $1.25 billion between 2006 and 2015, and “such sums as are necessary for each of the fiscal years 2016 through 2021.”

The provisions also create a new position of undersecretary for science, with an assistant secretary covering nuclear power. National security language was strengthened in the nuclear title by requiring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to institute a rulemaking on the design basis threat. Incentives and grants have been approved to attract people to work at the NRC.

The hydrogen title, meanwhile, outlines goals for creating a hydrogen market for vehicle, utility, commercial and residential applications by 2020, including $3.3 billion in appropriations to cover hydrogen supply, fuel cell technology, demonstration, codes and standards.


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