WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nuclear energy programs would receive $656 million in fiscal 2014 under a $30.4 billion spending bill approved today by the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee. That is a reduction of $102.6 million, or 13.5 percent, from the current fiscal year and a reduction of $79 million, or 11 percent, from the administration’s request for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
The committee rejected President Obama’s proposal to move the $93.5 million Idaho Safeguards and Security Program from Defense Programs to the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. This contributed to the lower overall funding level in the committee’s spending bill as compared to the administration’s budget request.
The appropriations bill provides $387.3 million for nuclear energy research and development, a 13 percent reduction from the current fiscal year and a four percent increase from the administration’s budget request.
The largest nuclear energy R&D program in the House spending bill is the licensing support effort for small reactors of fewer than 300 megawatts in electric generating capacity. The small reactor program would receive $110 million next year. That is a 66 percent increase from the current fiscal year and a 57 percent increase from the administration’s budget blueprint.
The fuel cycle R&D program would receive $91 million in fiscal 2014, a reduction of 50 percent from the current year and a decrease of 45 percent from the administration’s spending proposal.
The Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear waste repository program—unfunded in the administration’s budget—would receive $25 million under the House spending plan. The House Appropriations legislation does not fund the Department of Energy’s strategy to implement the nuclear waste management recommendations of the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
Another program not funded by the administration—the integrated university program that provides support for the sector’s workforce of the future—would receive $5.5 million for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and $15 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the House Appropriations measure.
Alex Flint, NEI’s senior vice president for governmental affairs, commended the committee’s action.
“We are very mindful of the tremendous challenge faced by the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee and the full committee in writing a bill given the current budget pressures,” Flint said. “As a result, the industry is particularly appreciative of the funding provided for the small modular reactor program which offers so much promise for both domestic and international deployment, and for the committee’s commitment to Yucca Mountain. The nation must make progress in dealing with its used fuel; the industry supports the committee’s effort in that regard and will work to see this issue advance through the legislative process.”
In another aspect welcomed by industry, the House measure does not include reinstitution of the uranium decontamination and decommissioning fund fee that the administration has proposed. The administration’s budget calls for a $200 million tax annually on electric utilities for the next 10 years, even though the industry already has met its financial commitments for this environmental program.
The House Appropriations bill matches the administration’s budget request of $1.04 billion for the NRC, an increase of nearly two percent from the current fiscal year. The House panel chided the NRC for the “administrative shutdown of the Yucca Mountain license application, as well as its willful misrepresentation of congressional intent.” The committee directs the use of prior-year funds to complete the Yucca Mountain license application review.
The committee’s funding bill includes support for USEC Inc.’s American Centrifuge uranium enrichment program, but it reduces funding—as does the administration’s budget request—for the mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility under construction in South Carolina. The House bill provides $320 million for the MOX facility, a reduction of $115 million, or 36 percent, from the current year.
“The MOX program is a key component of our nation’s nonproliferation strategy,” Flint said.“This change needs to be carefully considered in light of our continuing interests in reducing the potential spread of weapons-usable fissile materials and the bilateral commitments made with the Russian Federation regarding the disposition of excess weapons plutonium. NEI will continue to work with the Congress in this regard.”