WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate approved energy and water appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2010 on Wednesday. The following is a statement from Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president for governmental affairs commenting on provisions in the funding bill.
“The Nuclear Energy Institute is pleased that the Senate has approved a fiscal year 2010 funding bill that bolsters industry efforts in some key areas.
“NEI is especially gratified that the Senate has increased to the necessary level government funding for the cost-shared Nuclear Power 2010 partnership. The Department of Energy match of $120 million in industry funding will help achieve the successful completion of this joint effort to reduce the technical and regulatory uncertainties associated with construction of advanced nuclear power plant designs.
“With license applications for more than 25 new nuclear energy facilities pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and federal legislation pending to address the threat of climate change, the need to meet rising electricity demand in part with emission-free nuclear energy is obvious. Nuclear power plants already are far and away our nation’s largest carbon-free source of electricity, with more than 70 percent of this clean electricity supply produced by nuclear energy facilities operating in 31 states.
“The industry is extremely grateful that the Senate rejected the Administration’s unfair proposal to reinstate the Uranium Decontamination and Decommissioning fee which industry has already paid in full. Industry should not have been expected to contribute for a third time to this effort, particularly since the federal government has yet to meet its initial funding requirements for this program.
“In the area of used nuclear fuel management, NEI recommends a program that includes at-reactor storage, centralized interim storage, research, development, demonstration and deployment of recycling technology, and eventual disposal of the byproducts resulting from recycling uranium fuel at a national repository. Within that framework, the proposed funding level of $196 million for the Yucca Mountain repository program, though far from ideal, reflects current political realities. NEI believes the blue-ribbon commission to be named by Energy Secretary Steven Chu needs to be established soon and assigned credible members and an appropriate charter. It should define the policy direction that the Administration proposes for the management of both commercial used nuclear fuel and government nuclear waste.
“NEI also commends the Senate for its recognition that, until the blue-ribbon commission makes it recommendations, and Congress presumably amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to implement a new used fuel program, it is unreasonable for DOE to continue collecting approximately $800 million per year from electricity customers and ratepayers for the Nuclear Waste Fund. The fund has a balance in excess of $22 billion and additional collections cannot be justified until the extent of changes to the existing program is determined.
“The Senate also provided more than $1 billion for NRC activities associated with the oversight of existing reactors and licensing new nuclear plants—90 percent of which the government recovers through user fees paid to the NRC by the industry—and for the second consecutive year the Senate has endorsed an Integrated University Program with DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.
“Our hope is that, by the time the appropriations legislation is finalized, Congress will have done even more to encourage construction of the first group of the many new nuclear plants that our nation needs to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”