The existing fleet of U.S. nuclear power plants produces more than half of our clean power and reliably generates approximately 20% of our electricity. Preserving the current nuclear fleet is vital to achieving the nation’s goals of a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.

Why Preserve the Existing nuclear Fleet?

To reach our nation’s aggressive climate goals, investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help to save the existing fleet.

We need every electron we can from our nuclear reactors, which at an average age of 40 years old are only middle-aged!

As our country shifts to a clean energy economy, these once at-risk reactors could soon be profitable again by using their heat and electricity to generate clean hydrogen, drive industrial processes, or even support a new fleet of electric vehicles.

Subsequent License Renewals

The Atomic Energy Act and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations limit commercial power reactor licenses to an initial 40 years but also permit such licenses to be renewed. This original 40-year term for reactor licenses was based on economic and antitrust considerations — not on limitations of nuclear technology. Due to this selected period, however, some structures and components may have been engineered on the basis of an expected 40-year service life.

The NRC has established a timely license renewal process and clear requirements, codified in 10 CFR Part 51 and 10 CFR Part 54, that are needed to assure safe plant operation for extended plant life. The timely renewal of licenses for an additional 20 years, where appropriate to renew them, may be important to ensuring an adequate energy supply for the United States during the first half of the 21st century.

By 2040, over half of the nation’s nuclear power plants will need to obtain a second renewed operating license to continue operating. The NRC staff has defined subsequent license renewal (SLR) to be the period of extended operation from 60 years to 80 years. Learn about the plants currently under review.

Civil Nuclear Credit Program

The Civil Nuclear Credit Program is a $6 billion strategic investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to help preserve the existing U.S. reactor fleet and save thousands of high-paying jobs across the country. 

Under the new program, owners or operators of commercial U.S. reactors can apply for certification to bid on credits to support their continued operations. An application must demonstrate the reactor is projected to close for economic reasons and that closure will lead to a rise in air pollutants and carbon emissions. The U.S. Secretary of Energy must also determine that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reasonable assurance that the reactor will continue operating according to its current licensing basis and poses no significant safety hazards. 

Credits will be allocated to selected certified reactors over a four-year period beginning on the date of the selection, and credits can be awarded through September 30, 2031, if funds remain available. 

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