ARKANSAS, January 18 (Future Headlines)- The Department of Energy announced on Wednesday that the administration of President Joe Biden has finalized $1.1 billion in credits as part of the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program. The program, funded by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, aims to support existing nuclear power plants. The Biden administration views these plants as crucial for combating climate change and achieving its goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.

The first payment of awards from the Civil Nuclear Credit Program is designated for Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear power plant. Diablo Canyon’s two reactors, providing 9% of California’s power generation, were initially scheduled to shut down in 2024 and 2025. However, with the financial support from the credit program, the plant’s closure has been deferred.

The Department of Energy emphasized the significance of preserving the nation’s nuclear fleet, stating that it is critical not only for meeting clean energy goals but also for ensuring a reliable energy supply for homes and businesses across the country. Maria Robinson, the director of the grid deployment office at the Department of Energy, underscored the importance of nuclear power in the broader context of achieving a sustainable energy transition.

The decision to extend the life of Diablo Canyon has faced opposition from environmental groups, with Friends of the Earth filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The lawsuit challenges the commission’s decision to allow Diablo Canyon to continue operating while reviewing its operating license renewal. Critics of nuclear power highlight concerns about the lack of a permanent solution for storing toxic, radioactive waste generated by the industry. They argue that addressing these issues should be a priority before extending the operational life of reactors.

The Civil Nuclear Credit Program is part of the Biden administration’s strategy to support and incentivize the continued operation of existing nuclear power plants, recognizing their role in the transition to a cleaner energy future. Nuclear power, despite its advantages in producing low-carbon electricity, faces challenges related to public perception, safety concerns, and waste disposal. The administration’s decision to allocate significant credits to Diablo Canyon signals a commitment to leveraging nuclear energy as part of the broader effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The financial support provided by the $1.1 billion in credits is expected to enable Diablo Canyon to remain operational, contributing to California’s energy mix. The funding will assist in addressing economic challenges faced by nuclear power plants, making them more competitive in the evolving energy landscape.

As the U.S. pursues ambitious clean energy goals, including the Biden administration’s commitment to a 100% clean electricity target by 2035, the role of existing nuclear infrastructure becomes increasingly significant. The credits allocated to Diablo Canyon underscore the administration’s recognition of nuclear power as a transitional source of clean energy, playing a role in mitigating climate change and supporting a reliable and resilient energy grid.

While the decision has been met with legal challenges and opposition from environmental groups, it reflects the complex considerations and trade-offs involved in the broader energy transition. Balancing the need for reliable, low-carbon energy sources with addressing environmental and safety concerns remains a central challenge in shaping the future of the U.S. energy landscape.

Editing by Sarah White