Two US senate committee chairmen have presented separate but similar bills to boost the output of existing nuclear plants, while paving the way for new nuclear plant construction.
Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, outlined his National Energy Security Act 2001), which would:
•Extend Price-Anderson nuclear insurance law until 2012.
•Allow plant owners to claim back 10% of the cost of capital improvements designed to increase output by 1% from the DoE ( up to $1 million per plant).
•Authorise other DoE incentive payments to plants of up to $2 million per plant.
•Increase funding of the DoE's Nuclear Energy Research Initiative to $60 million, the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimisation programme to $10 million, and the Nuclear Energy Technology Department programme to $25 million.
•Create an Office of Spent Fuel Research within the DoE to conduct research on new technologies for spent fuel and high-level waste.
•Change the tax code to permit the costs of temporary spent fuel storage to be treated as a deductible operating expense rather than as a capitalised cost.
Meanwhile Senator Peter Domenici (R-New Mexico), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has introduced a stand-alone bill - the Nuclear Energy Electricity Supply Assurance Act 2001. The Domenici bill contains the same nuclear-related provisions except that which offers incentives for plant owners that increase year-on-year output. It takes a bolder approach to new-build: authorising the DoE to build on three sites in jointly-funded government-industry demonstrations of the NRC's early site permit process. It would also allow the DoE to tender for the development of the conceptual design of a generation 4 plant system by 2004.