The US Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting $27.2 billion in its budget request for the fiscal year 2013. Of this $770 million has been earmarked for nuclear energy, with funding for new programmes on small modular reactors and nuclear waste R&D.
The $770 million is split into four areas with 30% of the funding for new reactor projects, 29% for nuclear fuel cycle works, 23% for non-proliferation and 18% for extending the life of existing reactors.
US industry organization the Nuclear Energy Institute expressed its disappointment in the amount of funding requested for nuclear energy. In a year in which the DOE budget is proposed to increase 16%, the request provides 10% less for nuclear energy programmes than the budget for the current fiscal year, NEI said.
The DOE's budget request includes $65 million for cost-shared awards to support first-of-a-kind small modular reactors, which NEI welcomes.
“NEI welcomes the support for smaller reactors that offer a flexible approach to providing electricity supplies on a graduated scale in electricity markets, including remote areas. This emerging design also can be installed on the sites of existing fossil-fuelled plants that have reached the end of their lifespan, and can be readily connected to the transmission grid,” said Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president for governmental affairs.
The plan also includes $60 million for nuclear waste R&D that aligns with the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
Work on nuclear waste R&D will focus on consolidated interim storage and transportation issues (focused initially on decommissioned sites); work with industry to develop standardized approaches to used fuel management; conducting material testing to support extended storage of used fuel; revisiting and preparing a report on plans to address recommendations identified by the National Academy of Sciences transportation report; and initiating research on geologic disposal alternative environments, e.g. system modeling, engineered barriers, natural barriers, evaluation of de- sign concepts, and experiments.
In the FY 2013 the Department is also requesting the appropriation of $10 million from the Nuclear Waste Fund to support BRC recommended activities, consistent with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
The budget also seeks to re-impose a levy on nuclear energy companies of $200 million annually (adjusted for inflation) for the Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) Fund to finance the cleanup of DOE enrichment facilities in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
“The nuclear energy industry will continue to vigorously oppose this outrageous attempt to have our companies make up the government’s failure to fulfill its legal obligation to this long-standing environmental programme,” said Flint.
Meanwhile the, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has requested $1.053 billion in its FY 2013 budget proposal to Congress to regulate nuclear power plants and users of nuclear materials to protect people and the environment. The largely flat budget represents an increase of $15 million.
The FY 2013 budget breakout includes $809 million for nuclear reactor safety and $232 million for nuclear materials and waste. At the time the budget was submitted, the NRC was still evaluating the impacts of regulatory actions related to the Fukushima nuclear incident and the activities are included in the budget figures for operating reactors to maintain continued safety of domestic nuclear power plants.
The delays experienced by the EPR projects in both Finland and now France have encouraged a degree of caution amongst potential investors. The move to competitive power markets has also meant that the risks of projects now have to be shared and vendors are generally expected to take on some of this.