Biden Pledges $6 Billion to Renew Aging Nuclear Vessels

According to the Biden administration, nuclear energy is a carbon-free power source that helps tackle climate change and is worth $6 billion. 

The US Energy Department told the Associated Press, ahead of the official announcement, that this program will help financially troubled owners or technicians of nuclear power reactors by providing certification and bidding opportunities.

Most of the federal money goes to saving financially troubled nuclear reactors. 

What is at Risk?

Operators or technicians of nuclear power reactors facing economic hardship can apply for grants to avoid premature closure. To begin with, reactors that have already declared closure will get priority. 

The next round will include economically vulnerable facilities. In November, President Biden approved a $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law. 

Approximately two-thirds of states say nuclear power will help replace fossil fuels somehow.

12 commercial nuclear power reactors in the US have shut down in the last decade, primarily due to cheaper fossil fuels, huge operating losses owing to reduced electricity prices and rising costs, or significant repairs. 

Per the DOE, this resulted in increased emissions, poorer air quality, and the loss of large numbers of high-paying jobs, affecting local economies.

The DOE says a quarter of the fleet is at risk. Seven operating reactors will be retired by 2025. 

Most US nuclear facilities were built around 1970 and 1990, increasing operating costs. The only US nuclear plant under renovation is in Georgia. Costs have risen, and a February delay was confirmed. 

The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade association, says states have saved 20 more reactors in the last decade. Meanwhile, Illinois pays roughly $700 million to keep three plants running. 

The NEI attributes this trend to low electricity prices, as well as federal and state policies promoting wind and solar power. 

There are 55 industrial nuclear power plants in 28 states with 93 reactors. Nuclear power already provides roughly 20% of the country’s electricity or half of its carbon-free energy. 

If reactors shut before their licenses lapse, fossil fuel plants will probably fill the void, increasing emissions, according to Andrew Griffith, DOE’s acting deputy chief for nuclear energy. 

While natural gas is cheaper, nuclear power has been undervalued for its carbon-free contribution to the grid, causing financial hardship for nuclear plants. 

Renewable Energy

David Schlissel of the Ohio-based Research Center for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis wishes the federal government considered investing $6 billion in renewable energy, battery storage, and energy-saving initiatives that can quickly displace carbon fuels. 


Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear plant, will close in 2025. Skeptics doubt California’s all-in renewable plan can work in a state with nearly 40 million people. 

The Energy Department will continue to accept requests for the civil nuclear credit initiative until the $6 billion is exhausted. Owners and operators of nuclear plants can bid on credits for financial assistance.

In addition, plant shareholders or operators must show that reactors will be retired, due to cost concerns. The department would also determine their safety, with input from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

A nuclear manufacturing tax credit, for example, was proposed in Biden’s now-stalled Build Back Better plan, according to Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of NEI. 

Democrats say they hope to revive parts of the environmental and social package to sway voters cautious about the two-year-old pandemic and its downturns.