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FYI Number 90: July 10, 2006

Senate Bill Boosts Administration Request for Nuclear Energy Programs

There are significant differences in the approach that House and Senate appropriators took to the Administration's FY 2007 request for DOE's nuclear energy programs. House appropriators, who complained in their committee report that aspects of the Administration's request were not well defined, cut the request of $632.7 million by 21% to $499.8 million. Senate appropriators took a different approach, providing 12.4% more than what was requested, recommending funding of $711.3 million. The current budget is $535.7 million.

House committee report language can be read at http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/070.html Selections from Senate Committee Report 107-274 for H.R. 5427, the FY 2007 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, regarding the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and nuclear fuel reprocessing follow. The entire report will soon be available at http://thomas.loc.gov/ under "Other Legislative Activity - Committee Reports."

NUCLEAR ENERGY PROGRAMS - OFFICE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY:

"Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.—The Committee recognizes and appreciates the considerable investment this administration has made in this area and supports efforts to close the nuclear fuel cycle. It is imperative that the Federal Government support long-term research to discover ways to reduce the amount of nuclear waste and recycle the vast amount of untapped energy that remains in the current once-through nuclear fuel cycle. Faced with the reality of long-term storage needs and the fact that our Nation is unlikely to permit and license more than one permanent repository, our best alternative is to vastly reduce the amount of waste, the heat content, and the radiotoxicity of the spent fuel before permanent disposal. The President has proposed the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership as a multi-pronged technical approach to close the nuclear fuel cycle and encourage the recycling of uranium and destruction of long-lived actinides through advanced reactor technology. The budget supports the development of recycling technologies that have the opportunity to enhance the proliferation resistance of existing recycling or separation technologies. By utilizing the proposed UREX approach, scientists will not separate pure plutonium. The Committee expects the Department to continue to fully integrate proliferation resistant controls within the recycling technology. The Committee has provided additional funding within the National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Nuclear Nonproliferation to support long-term research and deployment of improved nuclear safeguards to enhance proliferation resistance and to allow for the safe expansion of nuclear power. The Committee encourages the Department to involve private industry in the GNEP program through competitive grants.

"University Reactor Fuel Assistance and Support.—From within available funds provided to the NERI [Nuclear Energy Research Initiative] program, the Committee recommends $10,000,000 to support fuels research for the Next Generation Nuclear Reactor. The Committee is disappointed the Department has eliminated funding for this program without warning. Universities depend on technical support from the Department, and the nuclear industry relies on the Universities to provide academic training to the next generation of nuclear scientists, reactor operators, and experts trained in health physics. The Committee is pleased with the success this program has had thus far and recognizes that a more modest level of funding is appropriate. The Committee supports this activity again this year and directs the Department to provide $27,000,000 to support the University Reactor Infrastructure and Education Initiative that was eliminated in the fiscal year 2007 budget request and strongly encourages the administration to budget for these activities in fiscal year 2008."

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

There is extensive report language in this section regarding Nuclear Power 2010, the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, and the Generation IV nuclear energy systems initiative. Language on the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative follows:

"Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative.—The Committee recommends $279,000,000, an increase of $36,000,000 above the budget request. The initiative should continue its focus on the technological underpinnings of the closed fuel cycle through a robust research and development program that includes the national laboratories, the university community, industries, and the international research community. The initiative should also continue to develop designs for the facilities necessary for demonstrating the technologies and the associated environmental analyses.

"In working with the Department, the Committee has recommended significant changes to the budget priorities for GNEP to encourage increased research and development on fuels, separation, and transmutation research. The Committee encourages the Department to coordinate the fuels research within the Office of Nuclear Energy, including research of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. Within the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, the Committee provides $53,800,000 for separations technology, $60,000,000 for advanced fuels development, $25,000,000 for transmutation engineering, $35,000,000 for systems analysis. Within the initiative, the Committee provides $40,000,000 for design of an engineering scale demonstration of a spent fuel separations facility, which will provide feedstock of transuranic materials for remanufacture into reactor fuel and dispose of waste products; $10,000,000 for design of this advanced fuel cycle facility and the operational support for the separations facility and burner reactor facility; and $15,000,000 for design of an advanced burner reactor to be powered by transuranic fuel. In addition, the Committee recommends $10,000,000 to support the modernization of Wing 9 of the CMR facility, which contains hot cells capable of accommodating fuel fabrication for the GNEP program. The Committee recommends $5,000,000 for the material test station at Los Alamos to support materials and fuel experiments using fast neutron spectrum systems. Without the use of the Fast Flux Test Facility, the United States has lost its domestic fast neutron source needed to conduct actinide transmutation. The Committee provides $2,000,000 for the UNLV Research Foundation to extend fuel cycle studies to high temperature gas reactors. Additionally, the Department is directed to enter into a 5 year cooperative agreement with the UNLV Research Foundation for these activities. Finally, the Committee provides $4,000,000 for the Center for Materials Reliability at the University of Nevada Reno.

"The Committee instructs the Department not to support any further research with Russia or Russian entities until the Russian Federation and U.S. Government are able to come to an agreement on the disposal of 34 tons of Russian weapons-grade plutonium.

"Advanced Fuel Cycle Facility.—The Committee supports the deployment of an engineering-design scale recycling facility to demonstrate the feasibility and technical capacity of a demonstration-scale advanced recycling facility. The Committee has provided direction in section 311 in the report to the Department to clarify the amount of spent nuclear fuel that can be used for the demonstration and requires that the material be removed from the site within 1 year, upon completion of the demonstration.

"Program Direction.—The Committee recommends $67,608,000 in Program Direction, which includes $7,000,000 for the Federal and contractor staff to plan, implement, and manage the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative research, development, and demonstration activities.

Note that another section of this report contains language regarding spent fuel storage, selections of which follow:

"CONSOLIDATION OF COMMERCIAL SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL

"The Committee has included language to provide the Secretary with expanded authority to consolidate commercial spent nuclear fuel at a separate facility within a State or at a regional site. Section 313 of the bill section requires the Secretary of Energy to appoint a Director of Consolidation and Preparation. Within 180 days of enactment, the CAP Director is required to issue a report making recommendations to the Secretary regarding the siting of a facility for the consolidation and preparation of spent nuclear fuel (‘CAP facility') in each State containing a civilian nuclear power reactor. Within 90 days of the issuance of the report, the Secretary, in consultation with the Governor of each State containing a civilian nuclear power reactor shall designate a site for a CAP facility within that State. Recognizing that Governors can recommend sites, the Committee also believes that it is desirable for the Secretary, in selecting a site, to first consider sites recommended by the Governors.

"The Secretary may determine that it is in the National interest to designate a regional CAP facility. No regional CAP facility may be designated in a State in which a State-wide CAP facility has previously been designated. The Committee believes it is desirable that States address their own waste needs and the Committee directs the Secretary to provide sufficient time for a State site to be designated and licensed before making a decision to designate a regional facility. A regional facility cannot be located in a State with a designated and licensed State site. Any site owned by the Federal Government, and any site that can be purchased from a willing seller may be designated as a CAP facility site. Nevada, as the State that has been designated as the site of the permanent repository is ineligible, along with any State in which a commercial, away-from-reactor, dry cask storage facility is authorized. Lands within national parks, wildlife refuges, or wilderness areas are also ineligible.

"The Secretary shall submit a license application to the NRC no later than 30 days after the designation of a CAP facility site. The license for a CAP facility shall be for a term of 25 years, and shall be non-renewable. The Secretary must submit an environmental report with the license application to the NRC. The NRC is required to issue an environmental impact statement in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 prior to issuing a license. Judicial review of the EIS will be consolidated with the review of the NRC's licensing decision. The NRC is required to grant or deny a license application for a CAP facility within 32 months.

"In addition, at the request of the owner of a shut-down reactor, the Secretary of Energy (the ‘Secretary') is required to assume title to, and responsibility for, spent nuclear fuel at the site of the shut-down reactor.

"The provisions of this section, along with the Secretary's obligation to develop a permanent repository under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, provide sufficient and independent grounds for further findings by the NRC that spent nuclear fuel will be disposed of safely for purposes of licensing civilian nuclear power reactors.

"Finally, this section provides that the Secretary shall make expenditures from the Nuclear Waste Fund for the siting, construction and operation of CAP facilities. Funding for this activity is provided within the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management."

There is additional language in another section of the Senate report regarding nuclear waste disposal.

 

A final note: FYI #88 reviewed the Senate's funding recommendations in the FY 2007 Energy and Water Development bill for the DOE Office of Science. A reader asked for clarification regarding earmarked funding:

The House-passed bill provides an increase of 14.1% over the current budget for the core program. House appropriators then included an extra $30 million for earmarked projects, for a total recommended budget of $4,131.7 million.

Senate appropriators took a similar approach, providing an increase of 16.6% for the core program, and then added another $48.6 million for earmarks, for a total recommended budget of $4,241.1 million.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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