Secretary Chu traveled to Waynesboro, Georgia, to visit the Vogtle nuclear power plant, the site of what will be the first new nuclear reactors to be built in the United States in three decades. | Image credit: Southern Company.
Just over 60 years ago, scientists in Arco, Idaho, successfully used nuclear energy to power four light bulbs, laying the foundation for U.S. leadership in the global nuclear energy industry. Nuclear power now produces about 20 percent of the nation’s total electricity and 70 percent of our carbon-free electricity.
Today, Energy Secretary Steven Chu traveled to Waynesboro, Georgia, to visit the Vogtle nuclear power plant, the site of what will be the first new nuclear reactors to be built in the United States in three decades. During remarks to more than 500 workers, Secretary Chu highlighted the steps the Obama Administration is taking to restart America’s nuclear industry as part of an all-of-the-above American energy strategy. After visiting Vogtle, the Secretary toured the Nuclear Modeling and Simulation Energy Innovation Hub at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The hub was created in 2010 to use the advanced capabilities of the world’s most powerful computers to improve nuclear reactor design, engineering and efficiency.
At Vogtle, Secretary Chu announced up to $10 million in new funding for innovation research and development in advanced nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technologies and highlighted some of the steps the Department is taking to assess the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and develop a strategy to build on the commission’s work.
Today’s announcements build on the Obama Administration’s work to help jumpstart America’s nuclear energy industry:
In 2010, the Department signed a conditional commitment for $8 billion in loan guarantees to support the Vogtle project, where the Southern Company and Georgia Power are building two new nuclear reactors, helping to create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses.
The Energy Department has also supported the Vogtle project and the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors by providing more than $200 million through a cost-share agreement to support the licensing reviews for Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design certification. The Vogtle license is the first for new nuclear power plant construction in more than three decades.
The Department has worked to advance small modular reactors, which provide an important opportunity for America’s manufacturing sector to make and sell cutting-edge technology. Small modular reactors have the added advantage of passive safety systems, compact and scalable design and lower capital costs.
Promoting a sustainable nuclear industry in the U.S. also requires cultivating the next generation of scientists and engineers. Over the past three years, the Department has invested $170 million in research grants at more than 70 universities, supporting R&D into a full spectrum of technologies, from advanced reactor concepts to enhanced safety design.