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FY 2008 Funding for Nuclear Energy Programs

Richard M. Jones
Number 8 - January 16, 2008   |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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Significant changes were made in the final FY 2008 funding bill to the budget request for the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy. Some of its programs received considerably more funding than what was requested, while significant cuts were made in budgets for other programs.

The Administration requested $801.7 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy's "Energy Supply and Conservation" activity. The Consolidated Appropriations Act provided $961.7 million (after an across-the-board recession, and an adjustment for "funding from other defense activities,") which is 20.0 percent or $160.0 million over the FY 2008 request.

The Office of Nuclear Energy's budget is broken down by category, which can be reviewed in DOE's congressional Budget Highlights document (http://www.mbe.doe.gov/budget/08budget/Content/Highlights/Highlights.pdf )

The following language is taken from the Explanatory Statement accompanying the funding bill. Note that all amounts must be reduced by 0.91 percent for the across-the-board recession.

UNIVERSITY REACTOR FUEL ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT :

"Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides no direct funds for grants and fellowships that support nuclear science and engineering education at the Department of Energy. DOE annually requests no funding for education assistance, and the Congress sees fit every year to restore it. For fiscal year 2008, the funding for the university nuclear education assistance program is provided in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission appropriation account to provide a sustainable education assistance program." In a later section of the Explanatory Statement, under Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it states: "Nuclear Education.—Funding under this heading in the amended bill includes an additional $15,000,000 to support education in nuclear science, engineering, and related trades to develop a workforce capable of the design, construction, operation, and regulation of nuclear facilities and the safe handling of nuclear materials. These funds are to be used for college scholarships and graduate fellowships in nuclear science, engineering, and health physics, and for faculty development grants supporting faculty in these academic areas for the first six years of their careers. Some of these funds are also to be used for scholarships for trade schools in the nuclear-related trades. Notwithstanding the requirements of Section 243 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which makes employment at the Commission a condition of receiving educational assistance, the Commission is directed to make generous use of the waiver or suspension provisions available in Section 243©)(2). The nuclear education supported by this funding is intended to benefit the nuclear sector broadly (i.e., federal agencies, industry, and academia) rather than solely to benefit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

NUCLEAR POWER 2010:

The DOE Budget Highlight documents describes this program as follows: "The Nuclear Power 2010 program is requesting funding of $114.0 million in FY 2008 to complete the two Early Site Permit demonstration projects and continue the New Nuclear Plant Licensing Demonstration projects that will exercise the untested licensing process to build and operate a new nuclear plant."

The Explanatory Statement provides additional funding over the request: "Nuclear Power 2010. Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides $135,000,000 for Nuclear Power 2010, an increase of $21,000,000 over the budget request to accelerate the preparation and approval of combined operating licenses."

GENERATION IV NUCLEAR ENERGY SYSTEMS INITIATIVE:

DOE describes this Initiative as follows: "The goal of the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems Initiative (Gen IV) is to address the fundamental research and development issues necessary to establish the viability of next-generation nuclear energy system concepts. The 2008 budget provides $36.1 million to maintain critical R&D to achieve desired goals of sustainability, economics, and proliferation resistance. This R&D will further investigate the technical and economical challenges of next-generation reactors."

The Explanatory Statement provides significant additional funding over the request: "Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides $116,000,000 for Generation IV nuclear energy systems. The Department is directed to accelerate work on the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP). Of this amount $74,000,000 is for the NGNP project, of which no less than $38,000,000 is for establishing a reference conceptual design and baseline cost. Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides $36,000,000 for establishing a licensing strategy and an aggressive pre-application program with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that includes: developing substantial industry involvement; advancing and testing key enabling technologies; developing a cost-and-risk sharing concept for the NGNP; and establishing a project plan, vendor team and international cooperation framework. The Appropriations Committees emphasize the importance of developing a strong private sector-based partner for the NGNP, and provide $26,000,000 for advancing critical-path enabling gas reactor technology including materials testing and qualification and fuel development, testing and qualification, $9,000,000 to continue work with Russia on gas reactors, and $7,000,000 for deep burn (actinide management) characteristics of gas-cooled reactors."

NUCLEAR HYDROGEN INITIATIVE:

DOE describes this initiative as follows: "The Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative (NHI), with funding of $22.6 million, will conduct research and development on enabling technologies, demonstrate nuclear-based hydrogen production technologies, and develop technologies that will apply heat from Generation IV nuclear energy systems to produce hydrogen. DOE’s Offices of Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, Science, and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy are working together to provide the technological underpinnings of the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. Research and development work carried out by NHI may enable the United States to generate hydrogen at a scale and cost that would support a future hydrogen-based economy."

The Explanatory Statement significantly reduces funding from the request: "Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides $10,000,000 for the nuclear hydrogen initiative."

ADVANCED FUEL CYCLE INITIATIVE:

DOE describes this initiative, in part, as follows: "The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, the technology development element of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) is requesting $395 million in FY 2008. This research and development program is focusing on methods to reduce the volume and long-term toxicity of high-level waste from spent nuclear fuel, reduce the long-term proliferation threat posed by civilian inventories of plutonium in spent fuel, and provide for proliferation-resistant technologies to recover the energy content in spent nuclear fuel."

The Explanatory Statement makes significant changes to the request. Note the language stating: "no [AFCI] funds are provided for facility construction for technology demonstration or commercialization." The language states: "Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides $462,349,000 for fuel cycle research and facilities, and is intended to be used as follows: $233,849,000 for the construction of the Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication (MOX) facility, and $47,500,000 for MOX facility other project costs, for a total of $281,349,000 of new budget authority for the MOX project at the Savannah River Site. The Appropriations Committees are concerned about the management of the MOX fuel fabrication facility, and the amended bill includes a provision that codifies the application of DOE Order 413.3A to MOX construction management. The Appropriations Committees direct the Government Accountability Office to monitor the construction and management of the MOX facility . . . . The Appropriations Committees direct the Department to provide the Committees a revised cost baseline and schedule for the MOX facility based on the level of funding provided by the Committees. The Department is directed to utilize $115,000,000 of prior-year unobligated balances for MOX in the nuclear energy research and development program, available for transfer from the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account."

"Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides $181,000,000 for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI). Of this amount, $151,000,000 is for continued research and development on spent fuel recycling and advanced reactor design, and no funds are provided for facility construction for technology demonstration or commercialization. The Department is directed to make available 50 percent of the AFCI funds for research and development in an agency-wide solicitation for universities, national laboratories, and commercial entities. Funding under this heading in the amended bill provides $15,000,000 for hot-cell upgrades at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and $15,000,000 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory."

Other budget categories in the Explanatory Statement include space and defense infrastructure (funded at $30.7 million), medical isotopes infrastructure (funded at $15.0 million), research reactor infrastructure (funded at $3.0 million), and site or lab specific funding, as well as $81.6 million for program direction (all amounts less the 0.91 recession.)

A different section of the Explanatory Statement funds nuclear waste disposal. The Administration requested $202.5 million for the repository program and program direction. Congress provided $187.3 million. The Explanatory Statement includes the following language: "The Department is directed to develop a plan to take custody of spent fuel currently stored at decommissioned reactor sites to both reduce costs that are ultimately borne by the taxpayer and demonstrate that DOE can move forward in the near-term with at least some element of nuclear waste policy. The Department should consider consolidation of the spent fuel from decommissioned reactors either at an existing federal site, at one or more existing operating reactor sites, or at a competitively-selected interim storage site. The Department should engage the sites that volunteered to host Global Nuclear Energy Partnership facilities as part of this competitive process." "The control level is at the Nuclear Waste Disposal account level, so the Department may move funding between the repository program and program direction subaccounts."

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