Union urges Biden to allow TVA to secure federal grants for development of new energy technologies

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America’s largest labor union on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to allow the Tennessee Valley Authority to qualify for federal grants to help develop new nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors the federal utility wants to build in the US. east of Tennessee.

Shortly after hearing a speech from Biden at his convention in Philadelphia, the AFL-CIO endorsed the resolution urging the White House to open federal grants to utilities like TVA who are unable to apply and benefit from certain grants and tax credits available. for investor-owned utilities.

“Although TVA operates as a self-funded electric utility, certain federal subsidy programs that should have been available to TVA have excluded the authority from eligibility,” the union federation said in the unanimously approved resolution. by delegates at the 29th AFL-CIO Constitutional Meeting. Convention. “More recently, the Department of Energy provided grants for the construction of modular nuclear reactors but, based on prior precedent, did not consider TVA an eligible recipient.”

In 2020, the DOE awarded two grants of $80 million for small modular reactors. TerraPower is using its grant to demonstrate the Natrium Reactor, a sodium-cooled fast reactor. X-energy plans to deliver a four-unit commercial nuclear power plant based on its Xe-100 reactor design with its grant.

However, the department did not fund TVA’s proposed GE Hitachi-designed small modular reactor at Oak Ridge, even though TVA has the only Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved site for one of the small reactors.

As a state-owned utility, TVA is also not eligible for tax credits offered for the development and construction of new nuclear power plants.

(READ MORE: TVA replaces the generators of its new nuclear unit only six years after completing the plant)

Chattanoogan Gay Henson, secretary-treasurer of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, called on AFL-CIO delegates to support TVA and federal funding for the development of small modular reactors, which she says can be built. faster and cheaper than traditional reactors. and “are the future of the nuclear power industry”.

“The Department of Energy has recognized this fact by creating grants to support the construction of these new SMRs,” Henson said during a speech at the convention in Philadelphia. “Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding of TVA’s function and purpose, the DOE has declared TVA ineligible to apply for these and other similar grants.”

Henson, a former health physicist at TVA’s Sequoyah Nuclear Generating Station, said including TVA in federal grant programs “would help ensure that these new modular reactors are built and operated by unionized workers who are federal employees”.

(READ MORE: TVA is ahead of most utilities in reducing carbon emissions, but the growing economy is reducing the share of clean energy)

TVA, which was created in 1933 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, received appropriate funds from Congress each year until 1999, helping develop fertilizer and energy technologies while also providing flood control. , navigation, recreation and economic development in its seven states. Region.

But for 23 years, TVA has been entirely self-financed by its electricity subscribers.

TVA makes payments in lieu of taxes to local governments because it does not pay property or sales taxes directly, but the federal utility does not pay any federal income tax, which is paid by utilities owned by investors like Southern Company or Progress Energy.

Henson said TVA has been unionized since 1937 and has 17 AFL-CIO-affiliated unions representing about 60% of TVA’s roughly 10,000 employees.

“TVA’s partnership with labor goes back to its earliest days, and working together, we’ve built the largest public electricity system in the country, delivering reliable power and conserving natural resources while creating economic opportunity across our region. region,” said Don Moul, chief operating officer of TVA. said Tuesday in a statement in support of the AFL-CIO resolution. “We believe advanced nuclear technology is needed…and partnerships with the federal government, other utilities and like-minded organizations are needed to ensure this development is completed quickly while minimizing the associated financial risks. to new technologies.”

AFL-CIO officials said they hope changes to include VAT in future federal grants will be made by the White House through executive orders that won’t require new legislation. But union leaders said there was no immediate response to their resolution from the Biden administration.

TVA has allocated up to $200 million from its own budget to study the feasibility of building new small modular reactors on the Clinch River in Oak Ridge, but TVA Chairman Jeff Lyash said in a previous interview that He hopes the Department of Energy, General Electric and others will help share research and development expenses for the new reactor design.

Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6430. Follow on Twitter at @dflessner1.

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