Today was budget day for the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both agencies unveiled budgets for FY 2009 that support new nuclear power plants. That's good news.
The challenges ahead include two U.S. Senators, both Democrats, running for President and both need environmental votes and cash to make it to the finish line. Once someone is elected reality may set in. The Nuclear Energy Institute weighed in with a statement of support for the budgets. (more on this below).
The budget is just a plan, and the appropriations process will prove out politically who gets what when. President Bush is in his final year in office. As these things go he is a "lame duck" which means he has little political clout to influence the appropriations process. New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici is retiring so his influence will wane as well. The situation is more diffuse in the House. Rep. Pete Visclosky, who has the leadership role for DOE's appropriation, supported new nuclear R&D in 2008. It is still too early to say much more than that.
The top nuclear energy official for the Department of Energy, Dennis Spurgeon, told Platts Nuclear Conference this week that the "number one priority" for DOE is to get new nuclear plants under construction. The budget numbers show it.
Spurgeon called the Nuclear Power 2010 a "success story" that shows how government and industry can work together to "jump start" the nuclear industry. He cited the Bush administration's fiscal 2009 request for $241.6 million, more than double the previous year's allocation.
Platts also reported . . .
DOE requested $241 million for Nuclear Power 2010, a joint government-industry cost-sharing program testing the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing process and developing new standardized reactor designs and bringing them to market. Congress provided $135 million in fiscal 2008 for the effort. So this is a major increase in funding for a key program to get nuclear reactors licensed and built.
Nuclear R&D fared less well in the budget submission to Congress. The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, which covers research and development on advanced reprocessing and fast-reactor technologies as part of the department's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, would receive $302 million under the request. Last year's request for GNEP overall was $405 million. Congress provided $179 million for AFCI in the current fiscal year.
Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems Initiative, on "next-generation nuclear energy concepts," would get $70 million in fiscal 2009. For fiscal 2008, Congress provided $116 million for Gen IV. Much of this work is done in Idaho. With Sen. Larry Craig having tap danced himself into legislative limbo, it's unclear who will be the advocate for this funding.
Back at the Platts conference Spuregon said that to keep the share of electricity from US nuclear power at its current 20% will take construction of at least 45-50 new nuclear units over the next 20 years or by 2030. All those plants will have to be approved by the NRC.
NRC budget exceeds $1 billion for 1st time
NRC's FY2009 budget request exceeded the billion-dollar mark for the first time. The $1.02 billion budget is $91 million more than its FY2008 funding level. Platts reported NRC is requesting $787 million in FY2009 for nuclear reactor safety activities, up $6 million from the $741 million it received in FY2008. That request includes $238 million for activities related to new reactors, up $4 million from $234 million the agency received in FY2008. The agency also is requesting $184 million for nuclear materials and waste safety activities, up $36 million from the $148 million it got in FY2008.
NEI supports DOE's budget
Over at the Nuclear Energy Institute the DOE budget got a positive nod from the industry's trade association.
Nuclear Energy Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Frank L. (Skip) Bowman said the budget request properly recognizes the need for nuclear energy to remain a key element of the nation’s diverse electricity portfolio for generations to come.
“Nuclear energy enhances our energy independence, and new nuclear power plants are essential if the United States hopes to meet its energy and environmental challenges. The promise of nuclear energy technology extends beyond electricity production to include production of hydrogen and process heat for other applications. For these reasons, the administration’s investment in the Nuclear Power 2010 program, the used fuel management program and the loan guarantee program are welcome and warranted."[Hat tip to NEI's blog.]
Links for Budgets
- Department of Energy
Like all federal agencies DOE puts its annual budget proposal and justification language online for access by the public. http://www.energy.gov/about/budget.htm
The official DOE press release with top level information http://www.energy.gov/news/5920.htm
DOE Office of Nuclear Energy budget documents, highlights, and briefing slides http://nuclear.energy.gov/budget/neBudgetfY09CongRequest.html
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Budget press release http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2008/08-022.html
Budget briefing slides and documents http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1100/