Nuclear energy programs would receive $936 million in fiscal 2016 under a $35 billion energy and water spending bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee. This is an increase of $22.5 million (2.5 percent) from the current fiscal year budget and an increase of $28.5 million (3.1 percent) from the administration’s request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Acting to impose greater spending and process discipline on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the appropriations panel reduced the agency’s budget by $25 million (2.5 percent) as a step toward implementing recommendations the NRC made only weeks ago to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. The NRC’s Project Aim 2020 report, unveiled in mid-February, projected a 10 percent reduction in the size of the agency at the end of the decade.
The committee again rejected President Obama’s proposal to impose a 10-year, $2 billion tax on the nuclear energy industry for the decontamination and decommissioning of uranium enrichment facilities that the U.S. Department of Energy operated in three states during the Cold War. Beyond paying toward cleanup activities at the sites as part of the cost of enriched uranium purchased from the government for reactor fuel, the industry additionally paid $2.6 billion in taxes for this effort from 1993 to 2008.
House appropriators also budgeted $175 million—$150 million to DOE and $25 million to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—to continue licensing activities for the used nuclear fuel repository planned for Yucca Mountain, Nev. The administration requested only $27 million as part of its efforts to terminate the congressionally authorized Yucca Mountain project.
Alex Flint, NEI’s senior vice president for governmental affairs, said the appropriations bill reflects solid bipartisan support for nuclear energy among House members.
“It is gratifying to see strong support for nuclear energy remaining a vital component of a diversified electricity portfolio that will strengthen our energy security,” Flint said. “The Nuclear Energy Institute would particularly like to thank Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson and the subcommittee’s ranking member, Marcy Kaptur, for their leadership, as well as the committee staff for their hard work.”
The funding provided to achieve progress in managing used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste is needed and encouraging, Flint said.
“Responsible stewardship of used nuclear fuel from the production of electricity with nuclear energy is a priority for our industry and should be for the federal government. Because a comprehensive program to effectively manage used nuclear fuel must include completion of licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain repository, the committee’s $175 million appropriation for that project is most welcome,” Flint said.
The NRC’s current budget is slightly more than $1 billion.
“The nuclear energy industry believes the Appropriations Committee has acted properly and decisively with immediate, concrete action to right-size the NRC’s budget,” Flint said. “As the NRC itself acknowledges in its Project Aim report, the public interest and the agency’s safety mission will be better served once the NRC is right-sized and increases discipline throughout its regulatory processes. Industry and NRC resources alike must be focused on those areas with high safety significance."