Comello speaks on financing advanced nuclear energy

The Perry Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 1, located near Perry, Ohio.
The Perry Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 1, located near Perry, Ohio. (Photo credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Creative Commons License, no changes made)

EFI Foundation’s Senior Vice President Stephen Comello said in a Guggenheim Securities’ conference on March 30, 2023, that commercializing advanced nuclear technology will require additional government support. In the financing panel, he explained next steps to increase the number of advanced nuclear reactor deployments through increasing a broad base of demand, which would lead to a nuclear developer forming an “order book” of installations. The conference was held in New York City, and was titled “Investing in Advanced Nuclear Energy: Meeting Clean Energy Needs Across the Economy.”

Comello emphasized the importance of moving from a technology development standpoint to commercialization. He said that various tax credits, such as the 48E investment tax credit, and legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) have boosted technologies that are further along in commercialization. But advanced reactors need more support.

“When we’re looking at a customer base that’s… not in a position to take risks the way that we want them to, especially in the U.S., you need some sort of government backstop,” Comello said.

He stressed that because utilities are generally unable to shoulder significant development risks, there must be further government support to alleviate that cost uncertainty. Comello suggested a system in which the government would cap and cover the capital costs of a new nuclear reactor that exceed a predetermined amount. In a sense, the federal government’s large financial resources would be used to instill industry confidence.

“Let’s call it the largest balance sheet you can think of that sits behind the consortium of utilities,” he said.

Comello emphasized that government support should be thought of more as an “insurance policy.” The support would only be temporary to supplement the construction of the first few advanced reactors; it could then ratchet down once the industry gains more experience and drives down costs.

He shared his thoughts on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) involvement as nuclear energy continues to progress. He said representatives from the NRC have built a rapport with various vendors, and vice versa, altering the prior perception that the NRC hinders the commercialization and deployment process for advanced reactors.

Comello concluded his remarks by pointing to the need for swift supply chain distribution of new nuclear technology.

“There [are] 10,000 days between now and 2050,” Comello said. “We just don’t have the time.”

– Kaycee Hubbard, Communications Intern

(Share this post with others.)