The nuclear industry is on the verge of a rebirth. A number of utilities that are current nuclear plant owners have applied for construction-operating licenses for new units. Electric cooperatives are partial owners of operating units in seven states and are actively planning to participate in future units.
To promote this renaissance, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 included a loan guarantee program housed at the Department of Energy (DOE) to help finance technologically advanced nuclear units and also included some risk funding for construction delays that are beyond the control of the constructing utility. Loan guarantees from DOE have already been extended for two new nuclear units in Georgia. Approximately one-third of those plants are owned by Oglethorpe Power Cooperative.
Despite recent successes, the industry still faces obstacles. The Administration has cancelled work on Yucca Mountain, the proposed repository for used nuclear fuel, and has named a Blue Ribbon Panel to find an alternate method of disposal, such as recycling. Utilities have been paying into the Nuclear Waste Fund since 1982; with interest, this fund has over $33 billion.
An exciting new development has emerged: small modular reactors. These units, 300 MW or less, would be built in a factory setting and shipped to the ultimate site. A consortium of 12 cooperatives is working with First Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority for a possible license to locate 2-125 MW units — at Oak Ridge.
Where We Stand
- NRECA supports the development of federal policies that will (1) ensure existing nuclear generating plants will continue to provide clean, reliable, safe and affordable electricity and (2) allow for the appropriate expansion of and investment in the next generation of new nuclear power plants.
- NRECA supports regulatory certainty in the timely permitting and approval of new nuclear plant construction.
- NRECA supports policies that ensure timely construction and operation of a permanent National Repository for High Level Radioactive Waste.
- Electric cooperatives support private and public interim storage facility proposals to provide additional flexibility for storage of spent fuel.