Biden Suffers Major Blow To Climate Agenda

Following the termination of two major offshore wind projects last week, on Wednesday, plans were scrapped to construct a first-of-its-kind compact modular nuclear reactor power station.

The only small modular nuclear reactor design approved for operation in the United States is manufactured by NuScale Power in Oregon. The project was expected to begin operating in 2029 and to provide power to replace that generated by retiring coal facilities. Municipalities and public power companies in various western states hoped to deploy the advanced nuclear technology with wind and solar to help eradicate planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the power industry. However, after a decade of development, NuScale and the Utah utilities have declared that they would be abandoning the project.

This decision follows the abandonment of two major offshore wind projects in New Jersey due to supply chain issues, high loan rates, and a lack of success in obtaining the necessary tax credits. When Danish energy firm Orsted made their statement, it was another blow to President Joe Biden’s objective of having wind power of at least 30 gigawatts by 2030, enough to power 10 million households. An Energy Department spokesperson described the cancelation as “unfortunate news,” adding that pioneering deployments are notoriously challenging. According to officials, what has been done so far on the project is expected to be useful for other nuclear energy endeavors.

ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington-based research group, termed NuScale’s decision “a big setback” for small nuclear power but said there is still “a lot of interest out there” in developing the technology at other locations. Whether or not other projects under development encounter the same problems is yet unknown.

Since 2014, under three presidents, the Energy Department has allocated over $600 million to the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho, to design, license, and sit a compact modular reactor power facility. The Trump administration authorized the Carbon Free Power Project in 2020 with up to $1.4 billion in funding.

John Hopkins, president and CEO of NuScale, stated that the business would keep collaborating with local and foreign clients to commercialize its technologies. The company is trying to get approval for a newer, more powerful 77-megawatt model. According to the Utah power system, more renewables, especially solar and wind, and new natural gas are needed when the system shifts its concentration away from nuclear power.