Congress halves the GNEP pie
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have drastically cut funding for the Bush Administration's grand nuclear plan for spent fuel reprocessing and advanced reactors. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) was proposed to be funded at $400M, but was cut by the House to $120M and in the Senate to just $242M. If the conference committee splits the difference, funding in 2008 will be about $180M or a 55% cut from the budget request.
Clearly, Congress is not buying the GNEP plan and seems bent on turning a major energy facility construction program into an R&D program. Both the House and Senate Appropriations' committee reports identified too many loose ends and uncertainties to fully fund the program. Biting criticism from science groups and environmentalists added to doubts about eventually spending billions on nuclear fuel reprocessing and advanced reactor technologies. The eleven communities which signed up as potential GNEP sites will have to see what the Department of Energy does about their applications given the funding cuts.
Dennis Spurgeon say hello to Sergei Kiriyenko
Unlike the situation with GNEP in the U.S., the Soviet Union has just create a state-sponsored nuclear behemoth. The Kremlin as established a state nuclear energy holding company with the mouth-wrenching name of AtomEnergoProm (AEP). It will be responsible for everything that glows in the dark in Russia from uranium extraction and enrichment to reactor development, operation, and the back end of the nuclear cycle. Vertical integration is being taken to new heights with the $25B giant that plans to become a player in global nuclear markets over the next eight years. Nuclear energy reportedly accounts for 17% of Russia's electricity, but the new state corporation plans to increase it to 25%.
Russia plans to export its nuclear technologies to countries that want new reactors for generating electricity. Target markets are likely in Southeast Asia where western firms see too many risks to insure profits. Russia also plans to be a leading global supplier of nuclear fuel. It is estimated to have 5% of the world uranium reserves and plans to boost production to five times the current 3,400 tons a year by 2020.
Russia intends to use the new state nuclear corporation to boost its use of electricity which will free up natural gas for export to Europe. However, unlike the gas giant Gazprom, the new nuclear group will not accept foreign investment.
Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) has been appointed as chair, while his deputy, Vladimir Travin, has been appointed as a director. In addition, the deputy head of the government staff Igor Borovkov, as well as Rosatom deputy directors Tatiana Elfimova and Ivan Kamenskikh, have also been appointed as directors.