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President-elect Joe Biden – in the grip of the “new nuclear” industry

Biden, once a critic, may boost nuclear power, Peter Behr, E&E News reporter , December 3, 2020 When mismanagement of a nuclear plant on the Lower Delaware River forced an emergency shutdown in 1994, harsh criticism came from a junior U.S. senator whose state lay opposite the Salem, N.J., plant 3 miles away.”For more than a decade, I have sought expanded oversight, enforcement and sanctions to make the Salem facility operate according to the law,” then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said, accusing the operator and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of turning a blind eye to serious, repeated safety issues, including dangerously degraded reactor equipment.

Fast-forward a quarter-century, and now it is President-elect Biden who has included proposals for a new generation of nuclear reactors in his clean energy platform, parting ways with “no-nuke” progressives further to his left.

It isn’t clear how hard Biden will fight in the next few years to support the possible development of a fleet of still-experimental, billion-dollar reactors that wouldn’t come online until at least the 2030s.

A second issue centers on the 95 operating U.S. reactors, some of which may close prematurely because they are losing money, plant owners warn. Getting public support to hold on to the plants’ zero-carbon electricity has been an issue for state governors, but not the White House, so far.

In the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden focused his support for nuclear power on new designs……

“Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate who’s ever actively talked about advanced nuclear power” as part of the campaign platform, said Jeff Navin, acting chief of staff at the Department of Energy in President Obama’s first term. Navin heads governmental affairs and public policy for TerraPower LLC in Bellevue, Wash., which won an $80 million DOE contract in October to further its novel reactor design.

Navin said he does not think that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ reservations about nuclear power as a senator will turn into opposition as Biden’s No. 2. Harris, for example, had opposed the 2018 Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act — co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), her 2019 opponent in the Democratic presidential primary — citing reactor safety and nuclear waste disposal concerns………

“Things we’ve seen out of the Biden campaign and the transition team are very promising for a continuation and even acceleration of programs and policies that will support nuclear energy,” said John Kotek, policy development vice president for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s chief lobbying organization. Kotek was assistant DOE secretary for nuclear energy in the Obama administration. ………

But Biden will hear from environmental policy advocates and nuclear power opponents protesting that the NRC has gone too far to streamline and reduce costs of safety oversight on old reactors as well as safety reviews of new reactor designs.

“The Biden administration will have to turn first to regulatory issues and repair the damage that’s been done at the NRC over the past four years” under President Trump, said Matthew McKinzie, director of the nuclear, climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

There are still too many critical questions about new reactor designs to justify writing them into clean energy plans, McKinzie said. “We are very far from an understanding of whether they could ever be commercialized,” he said……..

Transition choices

To head his transition team on energy, Biden chose one of the top technology experts in the Obama administration, Arun Majumdar, founding director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which funds experimental energy technologies. Majumdar now directs a Stanford University energy institute (Energywire, Nov. 19).

Others on the Biden-Harris transition team bring specific expertise on nuclear issues, including Rachel Slaybaugh, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior technical adviser at ARPA-E……. https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063719675

December 5, 2020 - Posted by | election USA 2020

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