President Obama’s Budget Boosts Renewables, Cuts Funding for MOX Facility

Construction on the mixed-oxide (MOX) facility in South Carolina is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

President Obama’s $4.1 trillion fiscal year 2017 budget proposal increases funds to the Department of Energy (DOE) to boost renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon fossil fuels developments.

The budget includes $7.7 billion government-wide on clean energy investments, including $5.8 billion with the DOE. Of that amount, more than $2 billion would boost the adoption of renewables like wind, solar and geothermal power along with energy efficiency solutions and low-carbon fossil fuels like natural gas.

In addition to funding for Mission Innovation, an agreement among 20 countries to double government funding for clean energy research and development over five years, the budget allocates $1.3 billion to accelerate clean energy adoption.

As part of Mission Innovation, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) budget submission for operations was boosted by $5 million to develop the regulatory infrastructure for advanced reactor technologies. The NRC’s proposed $970.2 million operations budget is down nearly $20 million from FY 2016’s spending levels. The budget breakout includes $757.4 million for reactor safety and $212.8 million for nuclear materials and waste safety. Since 2014, the budget is down 8 percent in line with decreased spending and staffing. Since the NRC recovers 90 percent of its budget from license fees, which are sent directly to the Treasury Department, the resulting net appropriation request is $121 million.

The state of South Carolina, however, sued the federal government saying the administration acted unconstitutionally in failing to complete the mixed-oxide (MOX) facility in South Carolina by a Jan. 1 deadline. The DOE is expected to propose shutting down the facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina because of steep budget cuts, and the plutonium will be diluted and shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico.

The MOX facility is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. According to the Associated Press, the government missed a Jan. 1 deadline for completion, so the government was supposed to remove 1 metric ton of plutonium from South Carolina or pay fines of $1 million a day – up to $100 million a year – until either the facility meets production goals or the plutonium is removed. A clause in the law makes the fine “subject to the availability of appropriations,” the article said. The administration has been looking for alternatives to producing plutonium from nuclear warheads.

The proposed budget also provides $1.3 billion to advance goals of the Global Climate Change Initiative through important multilateral and bilateral engagement with major and emerging economies. It includes $750 million in U.S. funding for the Green Climate Fund, which will help developing countries leverage public and private financing to invest in reducing carbon pollution.

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