While the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved $765 million for the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) nuclear waste programme for fiscal 2004, the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee recommended only $425 million.
The figure approved by the Senate subcommittee is $166 million less than that sought by the DoE. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Senator Harry Reid (Nevada) is one of the main opponents to the proposed Yucca Mountain waste repository.
Reid said that the amount approved by the House Appropriations Committee was "outrageous" and "insulting to Nevadans and all Americans". The legislation has been taken up by the full Senate Appropriations Committee and is expected to pass the Senate before the August recess.
On the reduced funding approved by the Senate subcommittee, Reid said: "Cutting the Yucca Mountain budget is a challenge every year, but I work with Senator Domenici and other Republicans on the committee to ensure the limited amount of money we have to go around is spent on worthwhile projects." Of the $425 million, more than $20 million of it is earmarked for the state of Nevada, affected counties and the educational system to provide oversight of the programme, effectively reducing the actual Yucca budget even further.
Subcommittee chairman Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) said the waste programme funding would be increased during a House-Senate conference committee on the energy and water funding bill.
• The energy and water fiscal 2004 funding bill that cleared the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee also contains $7.6 billion for the cleanup of DoE nuclear weapons sites and $6.47 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration. DoE's nuclear energy R&D would receive $437 million, which includes $35 million towards development of a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor.