Mass Acquisition of Early Site Permits for Coal-to-Nuclear Repowering

November 2023

Breakthrough Institute

Regulatory uncertainty is a barrier hindering implementation of coal-to-nuclear repowering. Legacy regulatory processes create friction rather than incentive for coal-fired power plants (CPP) owner considering engaging in C2N repowering projects. A key challenge is the regulatory process to acquire early site permits (ESPs). The current ESP pathway is lengthy and costly, which may discourage developers due to uncertainties and prolonged timelines. This report addresses this challenge and proposes a streamlined approach.

The Breakthrough Institute proposes a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-led program aimed at alleviating regulatory uncertainty. This program would assess retiring CPP sites nationwide, categorizing and prioritizing them based on local need for power, remediation, viability of existing infrastructure, and demand for workforce transition. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the DOE can apply for an ESP to conduct site-specific evaluations of a location with potential for a nuclear power plant before the actual construction and operation of the facility begin. This process allows the DOE to assess the suitability of the site and address any potential safety and environmental concerns in advance. The proposed program targets eligible sites with transferable workforces and essential infrastructure, helping to facilitate a seamless transition for C2N projects. In the proposed program, the DOE’s role will be to mass-acquire ESPs for multiple eligible C2N sites and subsequently to transfer those permits to utility companies and developers to recover the costs.

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