DOE Announces $900 Million to Accelerate the Deployment of Next-Generation Light-Water Small Modular Reactors

As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to fund up to $900 million to support the initial U.S. deployments of Generation III+ (Gen III+) Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technologies. This funding—made possible in part by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—will help strengthen America’s domestic nuclear industry and spur follow-on reactor projects, which are vital to achieving our nation’s ambitious clean energy and climate goals and meeting the growing demand for clean, reliable power. Today’s announcement underscores the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to support the demonstration and deployment of advanced reactor technologies, create new good-paying, high-quality jobs, and reinforce America’s leadership in the nuclear industry. 

“President Biden is determined to ensure nuclear power—the nation’s single largest source of carbon free electricity—continues to serve as a key pillar of our nation’s transition to a safe and secure clean energy future,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Today’s announcement will support early movers in the nuclear sector as we seek to scale up nuclear power and reassert American leadership in this critical energy industry.” 

“President Biden has spurred an unprecedented expansion in clean energy production – and through his historic investment agenda and ongoing bipartisan leadership, we are continuing to grow and innovate our nation’s nuclear industry, which will help us meet our clean energy goals and create good-paying, union jobs across the country,” said Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi. “Under the President’s leadership, we are partnering with stakeholders to reinvigorate the existing nuclear fleet, jumpstart new reactor technologies, and onshore critical fuel production. The path to greater energy security and more climate solutions runs through investments like these, being made at historic scale by President Biden.” 

Nuclear power is our single largest source of carbon free electricity, directly employing nearly 60,000 jobs across the country and hundreds of thousands more indirectly. The Biden-Harris Administration’s actions to grow the nuclear energy sector represent the largest sustained push to support civil nuclear deployment in the United States in nearly five decades. 

DOE estimates the U.S. will need approximately 700-900 GW of additional clean, firm capacity to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Nuclear power is a proven option that could be deployed to meet this need, including the growing demand from artificial intelligence and other data centers and the reshoring of manufacturing, while creating high-paying jobs with concentrated economic benefits for communities most impacted by the energy transition. Per the Department’s Pathways to Advanced Nuclear Commercial Liftoff report, establishing a committed orderbook of reactors in the near-term is critical to accelerating technology learning and reducing deployment costs. 

SMRs are versatile and can be safely deployed in a variety of settings, from remote to urban, from front-of and behind-the-meter, due to their small footprint, more modular design, factory-based construction, and use of established fuel supply chains, which all serve to lower overall project costs. SMRs also have the ability to meet smaller localized power demands and can be scaled up for larger demand or used in complement with renewables.    

Created by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 and funded by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, DOE anticipates offering funding in two tiers:   

  • Tier 1: First Mover Team Support, managed by the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), plans to provide up to $800M to support up to two first-mover teams of utility, reactor vendor, constructor, and end-users or power off-takers committed to deploying a first plant while at the same time facilitating a multi-reactor, Gen III+ SMR orderbook.  
  • Tier 2: Fast Follower Deployment Support, managed by the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE), plans to provide up to $100M to spur additional Gen III+ SMR deployments by addressing key gaps that have hindered the domestic nuclear industry in areas such as design, licensing, supplier development, and site preparation.  

DOE anticipates releasing a funding solicitation in late summer/fall of 2024. For more information, visit the Gen III+ Small Modular Reactor engagement webpage here. Potential applicants may wish to register for the informational webinar on July 9, 2024 here.   

DOE also plans to hold an in-person Industry Day in August to facilitate partnerships among eligible applicant teams. Due to space constraints, Industry Day attendance will be prioritized for utilities, reactor vendors, constructors, end-users/off-takers, and members of the supply chain. Learn more, here

To support the goal of building a clean and equitable energy economy, projects are expected to (1) support meaningful community and labor engagement; (2) invest in quality jobs; (3) advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; and (4) contribute to the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities (the Justice40 Initiative). The strength of a proposal’s community benefits, including a project’s impact on equity and environmental justice, will be considered when reviewing applications. 

Learn more about how OCED, NE, and the Department’s Pathways to Advanced Nuclear Commercial Liftoff report support the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies that will help the U.S. nuclear sector reach our nation’s ambitious goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. 

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