WASHINGTON—The U.S. Congress approved omnibus appropriations legislation (H.R. 4818) for fiscal year 2005 on Saturday that included the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The Energy and Water spending package featured $577 million in spending for the Department of Energy’s nuclear waste management program and $513 million for nuclear energy initiatives, including $50 million for DOE’s Nuclear Power 2010 program. Negotiations closing out the lame-duck session of the 108th Congress also saw Senate confirmation of 175 administration nominations that will include the recess appointments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Albert Konetzni and Greg Jaczko, science adviser to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Following is a statement from John Kane, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president of governmental affairs, on these developments.
“Congress’s $577 million appropriation for the planned Yucca Mountain, Nevada, repository for fiscal year 2005 ties the program’s ‘high water mark’ for funding. However, important program elements that include planning for the transport of used nuclear fuel containers likely will continue to be pushed into the future because of additional funding needs. The federal Nuclear Waste Fund receives some $750 million annually from surcharges on monthly electricity bills paid by users of nuclear-generated electricity, providing plenty of money for an array of underfunded program activities.
“The administration and Congress need to work together to reclassify the budget treatment of the Nuclear Waste Fund to its original and intended purpose of self-financing the development of a geologic repository to isolate commercial used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from the Defense Department.
“We strongly support the U.S. Senate exercising its role of advice and consent on appointments. Recess NRC appointments of Greg Jaczko and Admiral Albert Konetzni did not allow for this. In light of his work on behalf of Senator Reid opposing the Yucca Mountain project, Mr. Jaczko’s ability to serve on the commission in an impartial manner on general nuclear issues and Yucca Mountain, in particular, is an open question.
“The industry is extremely pleased that, in austere budgetary times, Congress approved a five-fold increase from the administration’s funding request for the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 initiative that is aimed at bringing a new nuclear power plant on-line by the end of the decade. The $50 million appropriation is significant in moving forward the possibility of construction of advanced nuclear power plants in the next decade. New nuclear plants will help America meet the challenges of rising demand for electricity, concerns over air quality and overreliance on energy imports from unstable parts of the world.
“We congratulate Appropriations Committee Chairmen Pete Domenici and David Hobson and other congressional leaders for their support of this important program to expand nuclear-generated electricity in the U.S.”
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.