New nuclear R&D programme signed

30 November 1998

President Clinton has signed into law a $21.3 billion Energy and Water Appropriations bill that includes nearly $294 million for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy in FY ‘99. The amount is up from $243 million in FY ‘98.

The measure allocates $19 million for the new Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI). DOE Under Secretary Ernest Moniz said NERI “will look at advanced reactor types which are passively safe, proliferation resistant and waste minimising”.

Increased funding for nuclear energy R&D had been urged by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

“At a time when Congress is trying not to fund new programmes, support for this initiative is solid evidence that policy makers recognise the crucial role of nuclear energy,” said Joe F Colvin, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The measure provides: • $358 million for high-level radioactive waste management. $165 million will come from the Nuclear Waste Fund, and $189 million will be provided by defence programmes for disposal of military nuclear waste.

• $4 million for a new R&D programme to study accelerator transmutation of waste (ATW) technology. DOE is directed to develop “a road map for the development of ATW technology”. It would identify technical issues that need resolution, propose a time schedule and programme for resolving them, and estimate the costs of an ATW programme. DOE will also consider and propose collaborative efforts with other countries.

• $169 million for the DOE’s fissile materials disposition programme. The bill allows DOE to move forward with the design and licensing of key disposition facilities. It also includes $5 million for joint US-Russian development of gas reactor technology to dispose of excess weapons plutonium. But it directs the US not to proceed in disposing of excess plutonium without parallel progress on the Russian side.

The budget also includes $11 million for university R&D programmes; $30 million for international nuclear safety; $22 million for advanced radioisotope power systems; and $12 million on the biological and environmental effects of low doses of radiation.

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