The Senate subcommittee on energy and water voted out a bill on June 28th. Here's a few quick nuke notes.
Global Nuclear Energy Partnership
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee's FY2008 Energy and Water Development bill called for $242 million for GNEP $153 million below the budget request. The Senate's bill directs DOE to focus less on commercial deployment of the advanced reactors and spent fuel reprocessing facilities, and to put more effort toward demonstrating the technical feasibility as well as a proven safety record.
The bill also directs the Department to stop work on a new Advanced Fuel Cycle Facility and use the funding to invest it into the existing laboratory capabilities. Within the available funds, $23 million has been directed to upgrade the hot cells at Los Alamos.
Nonproliferation & MOX
The continuing effort to control nuclear weapons is a big winner in the Senate subcommittee vote. That's good news. As these programs meet their milestones we will all sleep more soundly.
The Committee continues to make global nuclear nonproliferation a top priority. The Committee mark provides $1.8 billion toward this effort, an increase of $200 million over the request and $54 million over current year levels.
The bill provides $390.8 million to support construction of the U.S. MOX facility at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
The committee bill expressed its continued frustration that the Russian government has failed to fulfill the terms of the bilateral Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. The bill rescinds $57 million in previously appropriated funding for the Russian disposal effort. These funds will be used to accelerate the construction of the U.S. MOX facility. The Committee said that $151 million remains available to support the bilateral initiative.
The bill also provides $50 million to initiate creation of an international uranium fuel bank within the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This funding will be used to create a fuel reserve that the IAEA can use to encourage countries to forego a domestic uranium enrichment capability. This reserve would give countries the confidence that there is a secure and available supply of uranium that can be used if other uranium supplies are disrupted in the future. This fuel bank will be useful for countries that don't already have uranium enrichment plants of their own. It's too late for India and Iran, but not for a lot of other places.
Under the nonproliferation account, the bill redirects $29 million proposed for the Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP). The funding reduction is enabled as a result of foreign contributions to the program from six other nations. It's nice to see multi-lateral cooperation especially in the form of other countries writing checks.
New Mexico's big dog weighs in
New Mexican Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, a supporter of GNEP and Los Alamos, was unhappy about the outcome of the subcommittee vote on GNEP
"Although I share the president's desire to address our spent fuel inventories by recycling and reducing this material, I recognize that the new congressional leadership is seeking a more modest program that can more fully demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of closing the nuclear fuel cycle as other countries have done," he said in a prepared statement.
Translation - the Democrats in the Senate aren't buying President Bush's plan for GNEP anymore than their colleages did in the House. The only difference is they hold far less of a margin in votes in the full Senate than they do in the House.
Domenici also express his dour views on the Russian efforts toward nonproliferation.
“I am deeply disappointed in the lack of progress on the part of the Russian government to advance the MOX agreement. I still have hope that this worthwhile nonproliferation project will eventually get back on track. But until that happens, I believe we should put our resources toward meeting our end of the bargain,” Domenici said. “MOX is fully funded to encourage DOE to proceed with our own U.S. plant without waiting for Russia.”
Idaho National Lab - local interest coverage
The Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) got $45M and infrastructure for the Advanced Test Reactor got $16M.
The much lower Senate mark on GNEP and the catastrophic cuts in the House could confine this program to finishing its EIS at DOE HQ with little new funding for GNEP work in Idaho.
That could change depending on the vote by the full Senate Appropriations Committee and the outcome of a House/Senate conference committee which, according to tradition, typically splits the difference between the two marks. If the House and Senate numbers don't change, you are looking at a GNEP funding level of between $180-200M for 2008.
Idaho Senator Larry Craig also noted in a press release that the INL cleanup program recevied $533M in the Senate subcommittee vote. The House number was just over $600M.
Fish beat nukes
If you fish in the Pacific Northwest, you will love the work by the Senate to provide a total of $99M for fish recovery along the Columbia and Snake Rivers of which $15M is for Salmon and the rest is for all the other fish. Comparisons to funding levels for nuclear R&D can be made by the reader.