The U.S. Department of Energy has released its $27.9 billion budget request for fiscal 2015. The spending blueprint includes $863 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy, a 2.9 percent reduction from the current fiscal year. The fiscal 2015 budget proposal includes funding to continue a public-private, cost-sharing program to develop small reactor technology, and funding for "consent-based siting" of used nuclear fuel storage facilities. The budget request provides only "cold standby" funding for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina, and the proposal again seeks to impose a multibillion-dollar tax on the nuclear energy industry for the cleanup of DOE uranium enrichment facilities. Following are comments from Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute's senior vice president for governmental affairs.
"The Department of Energy's fiscal 2015 budget request sends mixed signals on nuclear energy programs.
"It is highly disconcerting that the Obama administration again is trying to impose a 10-year tax of $200 million annually on nuclear energy companies to finance the cleanup of DOE enrichment facilities in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Previous Congresses have rightly rejected this attempt to force the industry to again pay into the Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund, given that the industry long ago met its $2.6 billion financial commitment under a 1992 law for this important environmental protection program.
"On a more positive note, the nuclear energy industry compliments DOE on its solid support for the development of small reactor technology. Small, scalable nuclear energy facilities not only can be an innovative addition to our electricity mix, they also can be a linchpin in U.S. efforts to regain global leadership in clean energy technologies through international sales of components and services.
"NEI encourages the administration to provide funding to implement in timely fashion the mixed oxide fuel program that is a cornerstone of U.S. nonproliferation activities. The administration's proposed policy and budget on the mixed oxide fuel program will not achieve this critical national security mission and will leave weapons-grade plutonium in a weapons-usable state for the foreseeable future. The ongoing construction of the MOX fuel fabrication facility at Savannah River Site—now 60 percent complete—should be finished, not placed into 'cold standby' as the 2015 budget proposes. By all objective measurements, the MOX program has proven to be a technological success; has achieved the highest levels of safety; and has served as an economic driver in South Carolina and nationally with more than 4,000 American vendors in 43 states contributing to the effort.
"NEI welcomes the budget's inclusion of $79 million for activities to advance DOE's used nuclear fuel management program. The nuclear energy industry continues to believe that the licensing of the planned Yucca Mountain repository program should be completed."