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By A.J. Roan
Metal Tech News 

Nuclear gets historical tax incentives

Benefits to be felt from all with cheaper and cleaner energy Metal Tech News – September 14, 2022

 

Last updated 9/13/2022 at 2:59pm

America's largest nuclear plant, the Palo Verde plant in Arizona.

APS

The Palo Verde Generating Station is the largest producer of clean energy in the United States. Its three reactors can generate almost 4,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per hour.

The Inflation Reduction Act aims to lower energy bills for U.S. consumers, among many other financial and climate benefits. Nuclear energy is among the benefactors of this landmark legislation.

According to the Office of Nuclear Energy, the law entails a production tax credit to help preserve the existing fleet of nuclear plants.

"This is a huge priority for our office," the federal nuclear office penned in a statement.

The zero-emission nuclear power production credit provides up to $15 per megawatt-hour for the electricity produced by nuclear plants, assuming that labor and wage requirements are met.

"As of December 3, 2018, there were 98 operating nuclear reactors at 61 nuclear power plants in the United States," wrote the American Geosciences Institute.

As of 2021, that number has fallen to about 93 reactors and 55 power plants across 28 states.

The R. E. Ginna Nuclear Power plant in New York is considered the smallest nuclear power plant in the U.S. With its single reactor, it can generate upwards of 582 megawatts of carbon-free energy. Similarly, the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona is considered the largest with its three reactors and generates roughly 3,937 MW of clean energy.

As the amount of electricity that a nuclear plant can generate depends on the period of time it operates, if the R. E. Ginna operated at full capacity for 24 hours, it could generate 13,968 megawatt-hours, and if it ran daily for an entire year, it would generate over 5 million MWh – and that's just the smallest plant.

"Nuclear power reactors generally operate at or near their rated generating capacity throughout the year and have relatively high annual capacity factors," the Institute penned.

Five million theoretical hours, at $15 per MWh, would really add up.

In addition to the production tax credit, the Civil Nuclear Credit program, established by the earlier signed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will support existing plants to remain the largest source of clean power in the country.

Further incentives

With approximately $369 billion in climate provisions, the IRA is the most significant piece of climate legislation in U.S. history. As the previous incentives pave the way for the nuclear energy sector, to help ensure energy security and to further the goal of cutting U.S. emissions by 40% before the end of the decade, the IRA also contains several tax incentives for clean energy technologies, including advanced reactors.

"Taxpayers will be able to choose from a technology-neutral production tax credit of $25 per megawatt-hour for the first ten years of plant operation or a 30% investment tax credit on new zero-carbon power plants placed into operation in 2025 or after," the Office of Nuclear Energy wrote.

As only one of these credits can be applied to a single facility, both benefits, however, can include a 10% bonus if the power plant is built at a brownfield site or an existing fossil energy community.

Beyond these credits, new and existing reactors can also leverage new production tax credits for up to ten years to generate clean hydrogen, which could expand market opportunities for current and future reactor technologies.

Advanced nuclear fuel

Finally, the IRA plans to invest $700 million to support the development of a domestic supply chain for high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU.

This higher enriched fuel is urgently needed to support the deployment of advanced reactors, including DOE's two demonstration projects with TerraPower and X-energy.

You can read about TerraPower at Gates backed nuclear firm initiates Natrium in the September 2, 2020 edition of Metal Tech News.

The inside of one of Palo Verde's nuclear reactors.

APS

Every six months, Arizona's only nuclear power plant shuts down one of its three reactors for refueling and maintenance. The deep blue hue of Cherenkov radiation can be seen from fuel assemblies within the open reactor core (foreground).

More information on both projects can also be read at Nuclear program sets off decade of growth in the January 13, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.

Establishing a U.S. HALEU supply can also play a role in eliminating the country's dependence on Russia for nearly 20% of the enrichment and conversion services needed for American nuclear fuel supply.

"With the recent passage of the BIL, IRA, and CHIPS and Science Act, the U.S. is putting its money where its mouth is to deliver a brighter, cleaner, and more prosperous economic future for our country," the Office of Nuclear Energy wrote.

Recent DOE analysis estimates that the clean energy provisions from IRA and BIL alone could reduce carbon emissions by roughly 1 million metric tons as the sector continues to drive technology innovation to enable longer-term emissions reductions across the industrial, transportation, and power sectors.

 

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