DOE FY2010 budget request receives mixed reaction from NEI

12 May 2009

The Nuclear Energy Institute has had a mixed reaction to the US Department of Energy's 2010 proposed budget, which would begin on October 1.

NEI president and CEO Marvin Fertel said that the industry is appalled that it is being asked to contribute to a decontamination and decommissioning fund for cold-war facility clean-ups that utilities used for uranium enrichment.

“While I absolutely believe that there is an obligation to be good environmental stewards at these sites, it is outrageous for DOE to seek to impose costs for this program for a third time—costs that ultimately would be borne by consumers—when the government itself has yet to meet its financial obligations under the 1992 statute,” Fertel said.

According to NEI, the nuclear industry was required to contribute $2.25 billion (adjusted for inflation) over 15 years to the decommissioning fund, with other monies to come from the federal government, under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. This levy was put in place even though the contracts governing the purchase of enrichment services prior to 1992 were required by law to include all costs, which included D&D costs. While the government has not provided its full share, the nuclear energy industry met its obligation under the 1992 statute.

Fertel also criticised the way the DOE has allocated funding for its used nuclear fuel programme that supports the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Half of the $196.8 million budget comes from the nuclear waste fund, which is paid by consumers of nuclear energy as a surcharge. The fund, established in 1983, has now grown to $22 billion and produces annual interest of about $1 billion.

Fertel argues that the relatively low budgetary request should have been entirely paid for by the nuclear waste fund. “While the Energy Department is obligated by law and by contract to dispose of used nuclear fuel and should continue to seek to license the Yucca Mountain facility as required by law, it is only fair that the financial burden of supporting this program be lifted from consumers. There is ample money in the Nuclear Waste Fund to finance this program at the level reflected in this budget proposal.”

Fertel said he was disappointed that funding for the public-private partnership for new nuclear reactor development, Nuclear Power 2010, would be cut by $157 million to $20 million. "The industry intends to invest $121 million in the programme in FY10 and had expected DOE to match that commitment, which would complete [it]," he said.

Fertel also expressed disappointment that the FY10 budget does not seek additional funding for loan guarantees for low-carbon energy technologies that qualify under the clean-energy loan guarantee program authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

“As the Secretary of Energy proceeds to negotiate loan guarantee contracts for new nuclear plants over the course of this year, Congress should provide the loan volume needed to support these projects,” he said.

On the other hand, Fertel praised budgetary increases in the Generation IV programme and nuclear fuel cycle R&D. NEI reports that funding for next-generation (Generation IV) nuclear plants would rise to $191 million, a 6 percent increase from the current year. Nuclear fuel cycle research and development would receive $192 million, a 32 percent increase from the current year.

"“It is pleasing to see the federal investment in next-generation nuclear plants as recognition of nuclear energy’s long-term role as a clean electricity source," Fertel said.

The budget request must be approved by the US Congress.

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