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U.S. Department of Energy

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is tasked with the mission "to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States; to promote scientific and technological innovation in support of that mission; and to ensure the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex.[1]

Ending GNEP's domestic activities

In April 2009, the Obama administration announced it was scrapping the domestic portion of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Environmental groups had criticized the plans for domestic nuclear waste reprocessing as "too expensive and too dirty." Energy Department spokesperson Jen Stutsman said in a statement, "The Department has already decided not to continue the domestic GNEP program of the last administration. ... The long-term fuel cycle research and development program will continue, but not the near-term deployment of recycling facilities or fast reactors." [2]

Loan guarantees to four nuclear companies

In June 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) indicated that the $18.5 billion in federal funding for the first wave of new nuclear power reactors would be shared by four companies: UniStar Nuclear Energy, NRG Energy, Scana and Southern Company. "The four companies have already selected sites for their reactors and are at the front of the pack to receive licenses to build and operate them from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission" (NRC), reported the Wall Street Journal. While the four had yet to be formally named, interviews with DOE and NRC staff identified the likely companies. The decision was based on which companies had "strong development teams and plans that could be implemented quickly." The DOE also wanted to fund both "traditional" utilities and "merchant" generators, and considered foreign partners "that might be able to contribute loans or equity" a plus. [3]

"Two of the current leaders in nuclear power, Exelon Corp. and Entergy Corp.," are not expected to receive federal funding. Both companies indicated they may not join the expected "first wave" of new nuclear reactors. "We can't build without loan guarantees," said Exelon's Craig Nesbit. Entergy's Mike Bowling said, "We don't want to be left behind, but we think this first wave will pave the way for others." [3]

Lobbied by the nuclear industry for loan guarantees

In May 2007, The Hill reported that the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), along with "top banking institutions" are lobbying the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for "more comprehensive" federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. "Since the April meeting" with OMB, the DoE "has proposed that the federal government cover 90 percent of loan guarantees, higher than its original guidelines of 80 percent." [1]

NEI's "New Plant Finance Task Force" is telling federal agencies that without total or near-total federal loan guarantees, which "act as default protection for private lenders," nuclear power companies will "have difficulty in financing new plants, which can cost as much as $4 billion." NEI's Richard Myers said that even increasing the loan guarantees to 90% of plant costs "will probably not be workable." A DOE spokesperson said the agency was not supporting a greater than 90% guarantee because the agency must protect "the taxpayer dollar from the potential financial risks of these projects." [2]

In June 2008, Investor's Business Daily reported that "the DOE will begin the review process later this summer," for the Department's $18.5 billion loan guarantee program for new nuclear power plants. "The $18.5 billion may be enough to partially fund only three or four nuclear plants, analysts say. About a dozen proposals are expected to vie for the financing." [4]

The loan guarantees can "cover up to 80% of construction costs. Utilities, some of which have formed consortiums, are expected to provide 20% in equity. The Treasury may directly finance certain projects." [4]

U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy

The DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy oversees research on carbon capture and storage, IGCC, and other coal and "clean coal" technologies through its coal research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) program. This program carries out three primary activities: (1) managing and performing energy-related research that reduce barriers to the use of fossil fuels, (2) partnering with industry to advance technologies toward commercialization, and (3) supporting the development of information and policy options for the public.[5]

In fiscal year 2009, DOE’s coal RD&D funding was at least $681 million, and $3.4 billion was appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for fossil energy RD&D.[5]

U.S. Department of Energy Tax Credits, Loans, and Loan Guarantees for Coal

Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) established a loan guarantee program within the Department of Energy (DOE) to foster "innovative technologies." In a federal loan guarantee program, the government guarantees that it will pay lenders if a borrower defaults on a loan, helping borrowers obtain credit on more favorable terms than would be available in private lending markets. The new DOE loan guarantee program targets energy projects that meet three criteria: (1) avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or greenhouse gases, such as carbon capture; (2) employ new or significantly improved technologies; and (3) have a reasonable likelihood of repayment.[6]

In 2007 DOE invited 16 projects to submit applications for loan guarantees. Two of the projects are Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) coal-fired power plants and one would use IGCC technology to produce synthetic gas from coal for chemical feedstocks. In 2008, DOE issued solicitations for $6 billion in loan guarantees for projects that incorporate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) or other emissions-reducing carbon technologies into retrofitted and new coal plants, or industrial gasification activities, and $2 billion for loan guarantees for advanced coal gasification projects.[6]

The DOE has launched a website on gasification, called Gasipedia.

Examples of Department of Energy Funding

In 2009, the DOE selected several projects for final loan guarantee negotiation. These projects included:[6]

The Clean Coal Power Initiative

According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

"The Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) is a 10-year, $2 billion program designed to support the Clean Coal Technology Roadmap milestones with the government providing up to 50 percent of the cost of demonstrating a range of promising technologies. CCPI is implemented through a series of five solicitations over the 10-year period, two of which have already been issued and selections made. CCPI provides the means to demonstrate those technologies proven through R&D to have commercial potential. Demonstrations are at a commercial scale in actual operating environments, which is essential to moving them to the threshold of commercialization."[7]

According Department of Energy Fact Sheet, the multi-year Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI), "is driven by private-sector-proposed projects in response to a government solicitation. Potential applicants include technology developers, service corporations, R&D firms, energy producers, software developers, academia, and other interested parties. The private sector cost share must be at least 50 percent. Funding is awarded to applicants, selected as a result of these open competitions, who can rapidly move promising new concepts to a point where private-sector decisions on deployment can be made." [8]

Round I participants:[9]

  • Great River Energy, Underwood, ND - Increasing Power Plant Efficiency–Lignite Fuel Enhancement
  • NeuCo, Inc., Boston, MA - Demonstration of Integrated Optimization Software at the Baldwin Energy Complex
  • University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Lexington, KY - Advanced Multi-Product Coal Utilization By-Product Processing Plant
  • WMPI PTY., LLC, Gilberton, PA - Gilberton Coal-to-Clean Fuels and Power Co-Production Project
  • Western Greenbrier Co-Generation, LLC, Lewisburg, WV - Western Greenbrier Co-Production Demonstration Project
  • Wisconsin Electric Power Co., Milwaukee, WI - TOXECON Retrofit for Mercury and Multi-Pollutant Control on Three 90 MW Coal-Fired Boilers

Round II participants:[10]

In July 2010, the DOE announced funding $67 million for ten carbon capture projects. The projects can be seen here.[11]

Funding for University Coal Research

On May 13, 2010, DOE announced that its University Coal Research (UCR) program would provide $2.4 million in funding for seven university projects "aimed at advancing coal research and development while providing research exposure to a new generation of scientists and engineers." The projects aim to improve the basic understanding of the chemical and physical processes that govern coal conversion and utilization, by-product utilization, and technological development for clean coal, carbon capture, and integrated gasification (IGCC) projects.

The projects can be seen here.

Personnel

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. "About DOE" DOE, accessed July 2010.
  2. Rob Pavey, "DOE to scrap SRS initiative," The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia), April 15, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rebecca Smith, "U.S. Chooses Four Utilities to Revive Nuclear Industry," Wall Street Journal (sub req'd), June 17, 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Reinhardt Krause and Sean Higgins, "New Nuclear Plants Are On Their Way, With Federal Help," Investor's Business Daily, June 20, 2008.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Coal plants: Opportunities Exist for DOE to Provide Better Information on the Maturity of Key Technologies to Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions" GAO report, June 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Synapse Energy Economics, "Phasing Out Federal Subsidies for Coal" Sierra Club, April 2010.
  7. "Clean Coal Power Initiative," National Energy Technology Laboratory website, accessed April 2008
  8. "Program Facts," Department of Energy fact sheet, accessed April 2008 (PDF File)
  9. "Program Facts," Department of Energy fact sheet, accessed April 2008 (PDF File)
  10. "Program Facts," Department of Energy fact sheet, accessed April 2008 (PDF File)
  11. "DOE Invests $67 Million For Carbon Capture Development" the govmonitor, July 7, 2010.

External resources

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