WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. Senate approved omnibus appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2009 on Tuesday. The following is a statement from Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president for governmental affairs, commenting on nuclear-related provisions in the omnibus spending bill:
“I am disappointed that a number of programs important to the future of nuclear energy in the United States were reduced from the requested funding level. However, it is important to our nation to see that the language for the Department of Energy’s Title XVII loan guarantee program extends the loan guarantee authority for clean-energy technologies indefinitely. Though limited in scope, the $18.5 billion in loan guarantees available for advanced-design nuclear plants will help encourage construction of the first few of the many new nuclear plants that our nation needs to enhance our energy security and help meet the threat of global climate change.
“Federal investment in nuclear energy has proven its worth many times over -- as evidenced by record-high levels of electricity production from power plants that are far and away our nation’s leading carbon-free electricity source. The state of the nation’s economy and concerns about greenhouse gas emissions present a powerful argument that monies invested in nuclear energy programs are monies invested wisely.
“Unfortunately, the Nuclear Power 2010 partnership program that is helping to bring advanced-design nuclear plants to the market saw a reduction of nearly $65 million from the budget request of $241 million. Similarly, DOE’s used nuclear fuel management program, with an appropriation of $288.4 million, now stands $206 million beneath the requested level of $494.7 million. Of that total, only $145 million comes from the federal Nuclear Waste Fund that this year alone will take in more than $750 million from ratepayers for the express purpose of financing this program.
“This diversion of funds from DOE’s used fuel management program is grossly unreasonable, particularly now that DOE has a license application for the Yucca Mountain repository program pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The federal government must fulfill its legal responsibility to manage used nuclear fuel. Our belief upon seeing this bill’s disparity between program revenues and expenditures is that Energy Secretary Chu should reduce the fee paid by ratepayers so that annual collections no longer exceed annual expenditures. This seems reasonable given the $22 billion balance in the Nuclear Waste Fund.
“Nuclear energy is our nation’s only expandable large-scale energy source capable of producing electricity around the clock without emitting air pollutants or greenhouse gases. Many policymakers from both parties and from all regions of the country recognize this. We thank them for their support, and stand ready to help them meet the energy and environmental challenges that loom before our nation.”