The Biden administration last week announced an additional $1.2 billion in funding aimed at extending the lives of at-risk nuclear plants – and for the first time – nuclear plants which have recently closed.

The announcement came as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released application guidance for the second award cycle of the Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program, a $6 billion fund aimed at supporting the continued operation of U.S. nuclear plants. It was born out of the infrastructure bill signed into law in November 2021. The program allows reactor owners and operators to apply for and bid on credits to support their continued operations.

While the first award cycle limited eligibility to owners or operators of reactors that had announced intentions to retire within the four-year award period, the second cycle expands eligibility to those that are at risk of closing by the end of the four-year award period, including reactors that stopped operating after November 15, 2021.

Notably, this could open up an opportunity for the Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan to re-open. Formerly owned by Entergy, the 800 MW plant was shut down in May 2022 and ownership transferred to Holtec International for decommissioning under terms of an agreement approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in December 2021.

Holtec applied for a federal grant under the CNC program to restore the plant operations, with support from top state officials. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called reopening Palisades a “top priority” for the state.

In November 2022 DOE rejected the funding request to reopen Palisades, but the retired plant’s fortunes could change under the new CNC program criteria. Holtec has previously said the company would re-apply for funding.

13 commercial nuclear power reactors across the United States have closed in the last decade, but there has been renewed support for nuclear in the last couple of years. The Biden Administration has made nuclear energy a key pillar in its goal of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035.

Applications for the second CNC award cycle must be submitted by the end of May. More on the CNC program here.

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