US President Joe Biden has signed into law the bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act. The $1,200 billion Bill, which is a key part of the President's Build Back Better programme, covers all aspects of the economy including provisions for some investment in advanced nuclear reactor demonstration projects and investment in research hubs for next generation technologies such as carbon capture and clean hydrogen.
Most of the funding, including $550 billion in new funds will go to upgrading transportation, water, and power infrastructure, as well as expanding broadband internet access. The bill also allocates some funds for R&D, primarily for advancing clean energy technologies, including electric vehicles and carbon capture. This includes more than $62 billion for the US Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure a "fairer clean energy future" including preventing premature withdrawal from operating existing nuclear power plants and investing in the construction of new advanced nuclear reactors.
The bill was passed by the Senate in August and the House of Representatives earlier in November. It commits $6 billion to prevent the premature decommissioning of existing nuclear power plants. The deal also includes $21.5 billion in funding to showcase clean energy projects and research centres focused on the next generation technologies needed to meet the US goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050. Most of this is for clean hydrogen technologies ($8bn), carbon capture and industrial emissions reduction (more than $10bn), and $2.5 billion is for new nuclear power projects under the DOE Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme (ADRP).
ARDP was launched by DOE in 2020 to accelerate the demonstration of advanced reactors through a cost-sharing partnership with US industry. In October 2020, two companies — Terrapower and X-energy — were selected by the DOE to showcase their advanced reactors by the end of this decade. X-energy earlier this year signed a collaboration agreement with ARDP and DOE on a project that will allow it to build an industrial-scale nuclear power plant using its advanced high-temperature gas reactor Xe-100 in Washington state through a partnership with Energy Northwest. X-energy said the signing of the infrastructure bill is a "strong indication" of the government's commitment to the political direction and financial investment needed to deploy small reactors as soon as possible.
“The bill makes a historic investment to help build the infrastructure for electric vehicles and power grids, ensure greater reliability and resilience, and stimulate critical R&D for hydrogen, nuclear and other clean energy sources,” said Arshad Mansur CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute. “The electric sector will play a critical role in meeting the US government's climate goals as many sectors of the economy — including transportation, buildings and — will achieve significant carbon savings through electrification and other low-carbon energy strategies in which the electric sector will also play an important role.”
DOE said the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal “will help DOE play an even more effective role in the boldest climate agenda in our nation’s history by charting the course towards reaching 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. DOE stands ready to implement the Deal to:
- Invest in America’s workforce, revitalize domestic supply chains and assert America’s manufacturing leadership;
- Expand access to energy efficiency and clean energy for families, communities, and businesses;
- Bring the electrical grid into the 21st century;
- Build the technologies of tomorrow through clean energy demonstrations.
DOE’s factsheet on the Infrascture Deal said: “For too long we have ceded ground on manufacturing to our global competitors. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal’s investments in clean energy technology supply chains will allow America to make the energy technologies of the future right here at home, boosting our competitiveness within a global clean energy market expected to reach $23 trillion by the end of the decade. These investments will create jobs up and down the supply chain—especially manufacturing jobs and skills-matched opportunities for fossil fuel workers.”
The infrastructure deal will:
- Invest more than $7 billion in the supply chain for batteries;
- Provide an additional $1.5 billion for clean hydrogen manufacturing and advancing recycling RD&D;
- Create a new $750 million grant programme to support advanced energy technology manufacturing projects in coal communities.
- Expand the authority of DOE’s Loan Program Office (LPO) to invest in projects that increase the domestic supply of critical minerals and expand LPO programs that invest in manufacturing zero-carbon technologies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, trains, aircraft, and marine transportation;
- Require all construction workers on projects funded by the deal to be paid prevailing wages;
- Invest hundreds of millions in workforce development, giving workers in the electric grid, clean buildings, and industrial sectors access to training in cutting-edge technologies;
- Establish a multi-agency Energy Jobs Council to work with stakeholders and oversee the development and release of energy jobs and workforce data;
- Invest $3.5 billion in the Weatherization Assistance Program to increase energy efficiency, increase health and safety, and reduce energy costs for low-income households;
- Invest $500 million to provide cleaner schools by providing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements at public school facilities, along with a $5 billion EPA effort to replace thousands of polluting diesel school buses with electric buses; indoor air quality;
- Invest $550 million in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG) and $500 million in the State Energy Program to provide grants to develop and implement clean energy programs and projects that will create jobs;
- Provide $11 billion in grants to enhance the resilience of the electric infrastructure against disruptive events such as extreme weather and cyber attacks;
- Establish a $2.5 billion Transmission Facilitation Program to help develop nationally significant transmission lines, increase resilience and improve access to cheaper clean energy sources;
- Back a $3 billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program, focusing on investments that improve the flexibility of the grid;
- Allocate $6 billion for the Civilian Nuclear Credit programme to prevent premature retirement of existing zero-carbon nuclear plants, helping to save thousands of good-paying union jobs across the country. The programme is available for plants that would otherwise retire and are certified as safe to continue operations and prioritises plants that use domestically produced fuel;
- Invest more than $700 million in existing hydropower facilities to improve efficiency, maintain dam safety, reduce environmental impacts;
- Provide $21.5 billion in funding for clean energy demonstrations and research hubs focused on next generation technologies needed to achieve our goal of net-zero by 2050, including: $8 billion for clean hydrogen; more than $10 billion for carbon capture, direct air capture and industrial emission reduction, providing skills-matched opportunities for fossil fuel workers; $2.5 billion for advanced nuclear, which would provide 24/7 clean electricity and create good-paying jobs; $1 billion for demonstration projects in rural areas; and $500 million for demonstration projects in economically hard-hit communities.