US budget smiles on Idaho, AFCI but not Yucca

23 July 2004

Funding of $22.5 billion has been recommended for the US Department of Energy in 2005. The budget, decided by the Committee of Appropriations, part of the US House of Representatives, is $510.9 million more than 2004’s, but still some $669.5 million less than the Bush administration’s request.

Of the total, nuclear power programmes are to be funded at a level of $463.8 million, $51.2 million more than was requested. Idaho National Laboratory infrastructure is to receive $123 million, the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, $68 million, and fusion research, $276.1 million.

However, the $131 million allocated to the Yucca Mountain repository was markedly below the $880 million requested.

Some $749 million of the request had been tied to the Barton bill, a piece of legislation sponsored by Congressman Joe Barton that seeks to ensure that at least $750 million of the money collected each year for the nuclear waste fund be spent on Yucca. This would create a stream of funding for the project over the next five years with the aim of enabling the store to open in 2010, as planned.

Having been passed by the House of Representatives, the bill must be approved by the Senate before becoming law. Sadly, for DoE, the Barton bill is expected to run into trouble in the Senate, not least because Nevada’s Senator, Harry Reid, is a high-ranking Democrat and fervently opposed to the project.

Margaret Chu, director of DoE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, has stated that the requested budget is absolutely necessary to help the DoE cope with the increase in workload they face due to “convergence and integration of repository readiness, transportation system development and waste acceptance readiness.” In addition, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has warned that, should the request remain unmet, cuts in staff could have disastrous consequences for the project , with only a few years to go before its completion date.


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