WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved a fiscal 2012 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. The spending bill was offered by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee. She said nuclear energy should continue to be an important source of clean energy and there should be greater focus on a national program to manage the nuclear fuel cycle. The legislation acknowledges the federal government’s liability for used nuclear fuel. Following is a statement from Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president for governmental affairs:
“We view today’s action as a positive step toward continued utilization of nuclear energy in the nation’s diverse energy portfolio. NEI is heartened by senators’ support for the continued safe operation of existing nuclear energy facilities, their support for development of interim used nuclear fuel storage, and the acknowledgement of the government’s liability for the disposition of used nuclear fuel.
“Nuclear energy is invaluable in our modern society. It produces needed electricity and creates jobs, both in direct employment and as an underpinning of our national economy.
“NEI supports the funding provided for the Department of Energy to develop plans for centralized interim storage of used nuclear fuel and the request to the Blue Ribbon Commission to draft legislation to implement national used fuel management policy. The advancement of dry storage provisions and lawmakers’ direction to DOE to develop and implement a strategy for management of used fuel are welcome developments. The bill also includes funding for a National Academies of Science study of the lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan that acknowledges our industry’s hallmark commitment to continuous improvement by analyzing all significant events.
“The legislation once again summarizes the federal government’s liability for failure to begin accepting used fuel from commercial nuclear facilities in 1998 as called for in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and as amended in 1987. Chairman Feinstein reported in subcommittee yesterday that the government’s liability associated with this failure will grow to $15.4 billion by 2020 and taxpayers will face $500 million more in liability every year thereafter until this issue is resolved. This legislation is an important step reducing a critical financial drain on the nation’s finances at a time when lawmakers are trying to eliminate unnecessary expenses.
“These positive aspects are offset by our disappointment that the development of smaller scalable reactors was not advanced. We agree with Senator Alexander this is not a prudent course. We support the small modular reactor bill offered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (S. 512) that allows the industry to move forward with the development of this very promising technology that has broad bipartisan support. Additionally, the Appropriations Committee’s decision to provide no funds for the existing Next Generation Nuclear Plant program will hinder efforts to develop a public/private partnership to cost-share future development of the technology as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.“Achieving a significant expansion of nuclear energy in the United States to meet our nation’s growing energy needs requires sustained federal government policies that pave the way for advanced design nuclear plant construction, research and development on new small reactors, closing of the back end of the fuel cycle, used fuel recycling technologies and development of the next-generation work force.”