U.S. House and Senate conferees reached agreement Wednesday on appropriations legislation for energy and water development programs for fiscal year 2010, which starts today. The following is a statement from Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president for governmental affairs, commenting on nuclear energy provisions in the spending legislation:
“The nuclear industry greatly appreciates the support the subcommittees have shown in this challenging budget environment, in particular their effort to add funding for several critical programs and the conferees’ rejection of a particularly objectionable administration proposal.
“The industry is particularly pleased that the energy and water appropriations package approved by House and Senate negotiators increases to $105 million—$85 million above the administration’s request—the federal contribution to the cost-shared Nuclear Power 2010 partnership. This industry-government partnership is helping greatly to reduce the technical and regulatory uncertainties associated with the construction of advanced-design nuclear power plants that our nation needs to reduce carbon emissions in the electric sector.
“The Nuclear Energy Institute also applauds the $220 million appropriation for next-generation nuclear plants. This is a nearly $30 million greater than the administration’s request, and a 22 percent increase from fiscal 2009. We welcome the federal investment in next-generation nuclear plants as recognition of nuclear energy’s long-term role as a clean electricity source.“Other welcome actions include the restoration of funding for nuclear energy research programs at universities at the Senate-approved level of $35 million, and $136 million in funding for nuclear fuel cycle research and development.
“The industry also applauds the conferees’ decision not to reinstate collections for the Uranium Decontamination and Decommissioning fund. The industry already has fully met its obligations to that program, and is grateful for the conferees’ recognition that the administration’s proposal in that regard was unreasonable.
“It is disappointing that the fiscal 2010 budget does not seek additional funding for federal loan guarantees for low-carbon energy technologies. Sixteen applications for as many as 25 new reactors that would be built over the next 10 to 20 years are pending before the NRC.“The government can and should do 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 help reduce greenhouse gases. 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.“It is similarly disconcerting that funding for the federal government’s nuclear waste management program would drop to $196 million, only $98 million of it from the federal Nuclear Waste Fund. The federal government must fulfill its legal responsibility to manage used nuclear fuel. With the Department of Energy’s license application for the Yucca Mountain repository pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, sufficient funds should be made available to advance the application through the licensing process while the blue-ribbon commission being formed by Energy Secretary Chu evaluates the future government strategy to manage used nuclear fuel.”