USA budgets $50 million for Yucca Mountain

13 February 2018

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) proposed budget for fiscal 2019 includes nearly $50 million for work related to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository. President Donald Trump's FY2019 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE) includes $120 million for Yucca Mountain and an interim storage programme for used nuclear fuel.

The $971 million budget the NRC put to Congress focuses on continued efforts to enhance effectiveness and efficiency while supporting its strategic goals and objectives, and includes 149 fewer employees than in FY2018, the agency said yesterday. The budget is nearly $60 million higher than the previous year because of the inclusion $10 million for the development of a regulatory infrastructure for advanced reactors, and $48 million for work related to the proposed Yucca Mountain deep geological repository for the disposal of used nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste.

The request also includes $474.8 million for nuclear reactor safety, a total of $183.7 million for nuclear materials and waste safety (including the $48 million to support Yucca Mountain activities) and $299.6 million for corporate support.

Some $12.6 million is requested for the Office of the Inspector General, an independent office that conducts audits and investigations to ensure the efficiency and integrity of NRC programmes to promote cost-effective management.

"Through our continued focus on operational and administrative efficiency improvements, the agency's budget has decreased more than $80 million, including a reduction of more than 500 FTE [full-time equivalents], since 2014," NRC Chief Financial Officer Maureen Wylie said. "This budget reflects our commitment to fiscal responsibility."

The NRC recovers about 90% of its budget from licensee fees - about $815.4 million for FY2019 - so its net appropriation request is for $155 million. Yucca Mountain activities are not fee-recoverable and require resources from the Nuclear Waste Fund, established by Congress in 1982 into which nuclear utilities were required to pay a 0.1 cent/kWh levy to cover final disposal costs of used nuclear fuel.

TVA transmission sale

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said yesterday that a proposal in President Trump's FY2019 budget of selling the authority's transmission assets would require legislation from Congress.

The TVA said the transmission assets described in the budget schedule include more than 16,000 miles of line paid for by its customers over the past 85 years and form an integral part of its power system, which has delivered power at 99.999 percent reliability for the past 20 years.

"TVA does not receive any funds from the Federal Government, but rather is completely self-funded from its power revenues and the public debt markets, and TVA's obligations are not guaranteed by the Federal Government," it said.

The TVA operates the Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear power plants.

The DOE in 2008 submitted to the NRC a construction and operation licence application for Yucca Mountain - designated under US law as the sole site for the country's repository for used nuclear fuel. However, the US Administration decided to abort the project following 2009's presidential election. In August 2013 the federal Appeals Court ordered the NRC to resume its review of the DOE's application.

DOE funding

Meanwhile, the FY2019 presidential budget request, also unveiled yesterday, includes $30.6 billion to support the DOE. The request covers funding for the maintenance and development of the USA's nuclear arsenal, protecting energy infrastructure from threats including cyberattacks, promoting an "all of the above" energy strategy, and the clean-up of Cold War environmental legacies, as well as scientific research, development, innovation and commercialisation.

"The President's budget request supports the Department's efforts to enhance today's energy security while also making strategic investments for tomorrow," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said yesterday, adding that it would "empower" the DOE to achieve its missions "efficiently and effectively".

Some $2.515 billion of the DOE budget is earmarked for energy and related programmes - $1.9 billion less than was enacted for FY2018. This includes $120 million for the restart of NRC licensing activities at Yucca Mountain and the establishment of an interim storage program to develop a capability for earlier acceptance of spent nuclear fuel.

The US Congress will now begin the process of finalising the appropriations bills that will eventually become law. FY2019 runs from 1 October 2018 to 30 September 2019.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News