WASHINGTON—Citing the importance of nuclear energy to realization of the world’s energy and environmental goals, the Department of Energy today released a fiscal year 2007 budget request that seeks a 55 percent increase in funding for nuclear energy-related research and development. The budget request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 seeks $347.1 million, up from $223.7 million in the current year, for nuclear-related R&D.
The R&D portion of the DOE budget triples funding – to $243 million – for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative that will feature a new Global Nuclear Energy Partnership designed to “accelerate the work” being done under the advanced fuel cycle initiative. The program is researching methods to “provide for proliferation-resistant technologies to recover the energy content in spent nuclear fuel” and reduce the volume and toxicity of byproducts from the fuel.
The FY07 budget request also includes a 20 percent increase in funding for the federal government’s nuclear waste management program. Of the requested $544.5 million, $81 million would come from the Nuclear Waste Fund that is financed by electricity customers who use nuclear power. The remainder would come from Defense Department accounts to support disposal of high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs.
DOE officials stressed during their briefing on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership that the federal repository for used nuclear fuel planned for Yucca Mountain, Nev., remains a centerpiece of the government’s nuclear waste management program. DOE officials said it is in the nation’s interest to license and open the facility that would be built in the Nevada desert nearly 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
“At a time when the world is turning to nuclear power to help meet pressing energy and environmental challenges, the Nuclear Energy Institute agrees with the Department of Energy’s plans to increase nuclear energy research and development,” said John Kane, NEI’s senior vice president of governmental affairs. “The administration correctly anticipates a new era of nuclear plant construction as part of a diverse electricity production mix that meets the need for secure, clean and reliable energy.”
The nuclear energy industry welcomes the R&D emphasis on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, Kane added.
“It is important that the nation’s nuclear fuel cycle policies and programs recognize the resurgence of nuclear energy around the globe,” he said.
The nation’s used nuclear fuel policy should reflect three priorities, he said:
DOE must take possession of used nuclear fuel and remove the fuel from nuclear plant sites at the earliest possible time.
The government must maintain its strong commitment to the Yucca Mountain repository because, under any fuel cycle scenario, a repository will be needed for disposal of byproduct material; and
the long-term use of nuclear energy, the nation must evaluate and develop advanced nuclear fuel processing and recycling technologies that reduce proliferation concerns and that eventually will lead to a closed nuclear fuel cycle.
It is imperative that funds be provided in FY07 for the Nuclear Power 2010 program and for the university research reactor and education program, Kane said. The Nuclear Power 2010 program – a cost-sharing, industry-government partnership designed to reduce the technical, regulatory and institutional uncertainties associated with deployment of new nuclear power plants – receives $65.3 million in the current year. However, funding would drop 17 percent, to $54 million in the FY07 budget request. DOE’s budget request zeroes out the university research and education program that is receiving $26.7 million in the current fiscal year.
These two programs are critical to keep the new nuclear plant momentum up and to support mathematics and science education to ensure a highly trained work force to support our future, Kane said.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.