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Washington Looking to Revive More Shuttered Nuclear Plants

The Biden Administration may move to reverse the retirement of some additional nuclear power plants in a last-ditch effort to increase the supply of zero-emissions energy, following a March loan to reopen a reactor in Michigan. 

In an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the administration strongly believes in the necessity of nuclear power to meet net-zero emissions goals and indicated that nuclear power could make a comeback. 

The cost of building new nuclear reactors is time-consuming and expensive.  

The move follows the March decision by the Department of Energy to issue a $1.52-billion conditional loan to Hotel International to finance the restart of the Michigan-based Palisades reactor, which was shuttered only recently, in 2022. 

One of the conditions of the loan is the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Granholm indicated to Reuters that there is a strong possibility that the Department of Energy’s loan program was already in talks with other nuclear plants that have been shuttered. Those that have been in a state of decommissioning for a longer period will be more difficult, if not impossible to restart, according to Reuters. Some 12 nuclear reactors have been shut down since 2013, largely due to cheap natural gas. 

While Granholm remained tight-lipped as to what other shuttered nuclear plants could be in store for a revival, she noted that there are some 30 power plants in the U.S. that are at some point in the process of permitting for new reactors. 

The Biden Administration’s move to restart old nuclear plants also comes amid a heated battle with China, which is threatening America's dominance in the sector. 

The American market has significantly slowed in recent years at the same time that Beijing has doubled down on deployment, adding a whopping 34 gigawatts of nuclear energy capacity over the last ten years. As a result, China is set to overtake the United States (and France) to become the world’s biggest producer of nuclear energy within the decade.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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