The US Administration has hosted a White House Summit on Domestic Nuclear Deployment “highlighting the collective progress being made from across the public and private sectors”. The Summit brought together leaders from the nuclear industry, government, and academia to discuss the role of nuclear energy in the United States’ energy policy.

The Administration has taken a number of actions to strengthen our nation’s energy and economic security “by reducing – and putting us on the path to eliminating – our reliance on Russian uranium for civil nuclear power and building a new supply chain for nuclear fuel”, a Whitehouse Fact Sheet noted. These include “signing on to last year’s multi-country declaration at COP28 to triple nuclear energy capacity globally by 2050; developing new reactor designs; extending the service lives of existing nuclear reactors; and growing the momentum behind new deployments”.

The US, recognising the importance of both the existing nuclear fleet and continued build out of large NPPs, “is also taking steps to mitigate project risks associated with large nuclear builds and position US industry to support an aggressive deployment target”.

The Administration also announced the creation of a Nuclear Power Project Management & Delivery working group “that will draw on leading experts from across the nuclear and megaproject construction industry to help identify opportunities to proactively mitigate sources of cost and schedule overrun risk”. Working group members will comprise federal government entities, including the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the White House Office of Clean Energy Innovation & Implementation, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, and the Department of Energy (DOE).

The working group will engage a range of stakeholders, including project developers, engineering, procurement and construction firms, utilities, investors, labour organisations, academics, and NGOs, “which will each offer individual views on how to help further the Administration’s goal of delivering an efficient and cost-effective deployment of clean, reliable nuclear energy and ensuring that learnings translate to cost savings for future construction and deployment”.

The Fact Sheet said the United States Army would soon release a Request for Information to inform a deployment programme for advanced reactors to power multiple Army sites in the US. “Small modular nuclear reactors and microreactors can provide defence installations resilient energy for several years amid the threat of physical or cyberattacks, extreme weather, pandemic biothreats, and other emerging challenges that can all disrupt commercial energy networks”.

This initiative is in addition to other existing programmes through the Department of the Air Force microreactor pathfinder at Eielson AFB and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) Project Pele prototype transportable microreactor protype. “These efforts will help inform the regulatory and supply chain pathways that will pave the path for additional deployments of advanced nuclear technology to provide clean, reliable energy for federal installations and other critical infrastructure.”

In addition, DOE released a new primer highlighting the expected enhanced safety of advanced nuclear reactors including passive core cooling capabilities and advanced fuel designs. Idaho National Laboratory is also releasing a new advanced nuclear reactor capital cost reduction pathway tool that will help developers and stakeholders to assess cost drivers for new projects.

The Administration noted the completion of Vogtle NPP units 3&4, the first new reactors built in the US in more than 30 years. This had been made possible by DOE financing and support, including loan guarantees. It said the US Government “will continue to take action to enable first movers to deploy advanced and innovative technologies” building on actions that have already been taken.

These include: steps to “revive and revitalise” existing nuclear, such as a $1.5bn conditional loan commitment to support Holtec Palisades efforts to restart the Palisades NPP in Michigan; DOE’s Civil Nuclear Credit programme, which is helping to fund life extension of the Diablo Canyon NPP in California; and the production tax credit under the Inflation Reduction Act, which is supporting continued operation of existing NPPs.

The White House also noted the actions it is taking to support the demonstration and deployment of new nuclear technologies. These include DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, and a Congressional appropriations package providing $800m to fund up to two SMR demonstration projects, the implementation of which will be announced later this year. It also highlighted work by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to streamline the licensing process for building new reactors and life extensions and capacity expansions of existing reactors, and initiatives to develop the nuclear supply chain and workforce, including the recently signed Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act.

“Taken together, these actions represent the largest sustained push to accelerate civil nuclear deployment in the United States in nearly five decades,” the White House said.

Lightbridge CEO Seth Grae, who attended the summit, said the Administration’s initiatives “are a significant step forward in revitalizing the domestic nuclear sector and ensuring that nuclear energy remains a vital part of our clean energy future”.

During the summit, Duke Energy, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Nucor announced agreements to explore new and innovative approaches to support carbon-free energy generation and help utilities serve the future energy needs of large businesses in North Carolina and South Carolina.

In memoranda of understanding signed earlier in May, the companies proposed developing new rate structures, known as “tariffs” in the utility industry, designed specifically to lower the long-term costs of investing in clean energy technologies such as new nuclear and long-duration storage through early commitments. The proposed Accelerating Clean Energy (ACE) tariffs would enable large customers like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Nucor to directly support carbon-free energy generation investments through innovative financing structures and contributions that address project risk to lower costs of emerging technologies.

ACE tariffs would facilitate beneficial on-site generation at customer facilities, participation in load flexibility programs and investments in clean energy assets – features attractive to customers with large-scale energy needs. The ACE framework also would include a Clean Transition Tariff (CTT) – the key feature enabling Duke Energy to provide individualised portfolios of new carbon-free energy to commercial and industrial customers.