WASHINGTON, D.C.—The fiscal 2009 energy and water funding bill approved Thursday by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee provides full funding for the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 program and extends indefinitely DOE’s ability to obligate $38.5 billion in clean-energy loan guarantees.
The FY09 funding bill provides a total of $803 million for nuclear energy research and development, including $70 million for next-generation nuclear plants and $241.6 million for the public/private, cost-shared Nuclear Power 2010 initiative.
But just weeks after the Energy Department submitted a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the planned Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear waste repository, Senate appropriators reduced the administration’s budget request for the program by more than $100 million, to $388.4 million. Only $195.4 million is appropriated from the federal Nuclear Waste Fund, even though consumers of nuclear-generated electricity supply the fund with approximately $750 million annually through a monthly surcharge on electric bills.
“Although the cut in Yucca Mountain funding is cause for concern and requires analysis, the action taken by Senate appropriators in many other areas – notably loan guarantees, Nuclear Power 2010, next-generation nuclear plants and university research reactor programs – are most welcome,” said Alex Flint, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the Nuclear Energy Institute.
“Nuclear energy is vital to our nation’s long-term energy security. The Nuclear Power 2010 program and the clean-energy loan guarantee program authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 will help encourage the construction of advanced nuclear power plants that avoid carbon emissions and provide electricity to help meet the U.S. economy’s baseload energy needs.”
Appropriators extended DOE’s lending authority for all projects under the program that was authorized to provide loan guarantees for up to 80 percent of the cost of “innovative technologies” that “avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.”
New nuclear power plants are eligible for $18.5 billion of the $38.5 billion in loan guarantees, while nuclear fuel facilities are eligible for $2 billion, renewable energy technologies $10 billion, and “clean coal” projects $8 billion.
“The availability of loan guarantees to facilitate debt financing on reasonable terms for the first wave of nuclear plant license applications will help reduce uncertainties surrounding these capital-intensive projects, and ultimately will lower the cost of the electricity produced by these new power plants to the consumer,” Flint said. “Loan guarantees will not involve the expenditure of any federal tax dollars when the projects are successfully completed. That makes them a win-win-win for the environment, the economy and consumers.”
The Nuclear Power 2010 program is an industry-government partnership designed to reduce the technical, regulatory and institutional uncertainties associated with construction of new nuclear power plants. The program receives $135 million in the current fiscal year that expires Sept. 30. Industry also would fund the program with $241.6 million next year.
The Senate panel’s $70 million appropriation for the Generation IV nuclear plant program similarly satisfies the administration’s full funding request. Appropriators also recommended $10 million for nuclear hydrogen R&D, $229.7 million for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative to improve nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies, and $45 million for a new Integrated University Program to increase the number of highly trained engineers and scientists in a range of nuclear-related fields.
Flint said the industry greatly appreciates the leadership of Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd and Ranking Member Thad Cochran, as well as that of Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan and Ranking Member Pete Domenici in shaping the FY09 funding measure.
“The spirit of bipartisanship in pursuit of what’s best for American consumers is reflected in the funding of nuclear energy programs,” Flint said.