Two companies splitting $80 million for nuclear reactor research

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The Department of Energy has awarded two companies $40 million each to research advanced nuclear reactor designs, officials announced Friday. 

Southern Co. and X-energy were awarded the funding, Energy said, which will go toward research into “key technical challenges to the design, construction and operation of next generation nuclear reactors.”

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The department plugged nuclear as a “critical” source of energy, providing nearly 20 percent of the electricity generated in the United States annually. The funding released Friday is part of a White House initiative to support research into advanced nuclear energy. 

“In order to ensure that nuclear energy remains a key source for U.S. electricity generation well into the future, it is critically important that we invest in these technologies today,” Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizThe Trail 2016: Donald and the Supremes Overnight Energy: EPA wants higher ethanol mandate Moniz dismisses Trump’s call to change climate deal MORE said in a statement. 

“Public-private partnerships to develop advanced nuclear capabilities will enable low-carbon nuclear energy to power America for years to come.” 

In a statement, Southern Co. said it will use its grant funding for ongoing nuclear research at a DOE national lab in Oak Ridge Tennessee. 

“[Nuclear’s] importance will continue to grow as America transitions to a low-carbon energy future," Southern Co. CEO Thomas Fanning said. "This collaborative research effort will help accelerate the development of next generation nuclear reactors."

The grant announcement comes the same week a House panel approved a bill to promote nuclear energy research and development around the U.S.