The US nuclear industry, hoping for much greater support from the Bush administration, was disappointed when details of the Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) fiscal year 2002 budget request were revealed.
The proposed budget seeks only $223.1 million for the DoE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology in FY ’02, which begins 1 October 2001. The amount is $20 million, or about 8.4 %, less than the current funding level.
But the industry is holding out hope that the budget disappointment is only temporary, as the DoE said the proposed funding levels reflect a Bush administration decision not to seek funds for any major energy initiatives until an interagency task force headed by vice president Dick Cheney completes a new US strategic energy plan.
For now, the DoE has budgeted only $18 million for the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) programme (including $6.8 million for I-NERI, the programme’s international segment). This compares with $34.8 million for NERI this year. The DoE said the proposed FY ’02 funding level would allow continuation of research projects currently under way, but no new ones, until the interagency task force reviews the programme.
The DoE also proposes to spend only $4.5 million for the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimisation (NEPO) programme, down from $5 million, and only $4.5 million for the Nuclear Energy Technology (NET) programme, down from $7.5 million. NEPO is an industry/government cost-shared research programme aimed at finding ways to boost the performance of existing nuclear plants. The NET programme aims to develop a roadmap for Generation IV nuclear technology.
In other areas, the DoE’s proposed FY ’02 budget would:
•Decrease funding for fusion energy R&D by 4 percent to $238.5 million.
•Increase funding for the Civilian Radioactive Waste Management programme by 14% to $445 million. The proposed increase reflects the DoE’s plan to submit a nuclear waste repository site recommendation to the White House in FY ’02.
•Decrease funding for Defense Environmental Restoration & Waste Management by 8.4% to $4.5 billion.
By contrast, the NRC has proposed to spend $506.7 million in FY ’02, an increase of $25 million over the current year.