2008 budgets requested, 2007 budgets not yet approved

06 February 2007

American budget request for FY2008 have seen the Department of Energy (DoE) ask for $24.3 billion, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), over $900 million.

DoE's request reflects new aims recently outlined by President George Bush to reduce the use of gasoline and increase energy independence as well as a change in priorities in favour of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) project.

However, federal officials still await confirmation of their FY2007 spending requests, only two of 11 of which have been passed by Congress, and exist under a 'continuing resolution' based on FY2006 allocations. Congressmen expect this situation to continue until September FY2007, but, a
ccording to convention, American FY2007actually starts in September 2006 so such a delay would mean adepartmental budget misallocation lasting 11 months.

Despite this huge uncertainty, it has now come time for federal departments to submit budget requests for FY2008.

The bulk of DoE's FY2008 request, some $9.4 billion of the $24.3 billion total will go to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to "promote national security through a combination that includes maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile, advancing science, and promoting nuclear nonproliferation and threat reduction."

With respect to civilian nuclear power, a key component of NNSA's budget would be $334 million for the mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel plant at Savannah River, which would dispose of 34 tonnes of surplus plutonium from weapons programmes by combining it with uranium as fuel for nuclear power plants.

$10 million from NNSA's request would go to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which furthers NNSA's nonproliferation goals. In total, GNEP would receive $405 million, with some of that funding coming from the Advanced Energy Initiative's request of $2.7 billion to develop cleaner electricity generation technologies.

The request for the Office of Nuclear Energy is $875 million, which includes $395 million for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative – another program with links to GNEP. The Nuclear Power 2010 programme, which has been effective in building confidence in several utilities to invest in constructing new nuclear plants, would receive $114 million.

Further ahead, just $36 million has been requested to fund development of Generation-IV reactor designs and "long-term research and development to support the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) technology."  NGNP originally intended an advanced reactor to be built at Idaho National Laboratory which would be connected to a neighbouring hydrogen production facility. Bids were submitted to supply the high-temperature reactor for NGNP in 2005 but some observers now suggest the programme has effectively been eclipsed by GNEP.

The budget of the DoE's Office of Science would contribute $428 million for basic research into nuclear fusion. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has requested $1.24 billion.

A DoE statement said its budget request "supports continued scientific discovery and the development of alternative energy sources that are vital to America's energy and economic security."

Some $179 million would be assigned to the Biofuels Initiative to help achieve the goal of making cellulosic ethanol commercially competitive by 2012. This should help achieve another goal to reduce US gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years, as announced by Bush in this year's State of The Union speech. $75 million of that amount would be destined for three Bioenergy Research Centers.

Another recent initiative to have funding proposed is the doubling of the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1.5 billion barrels by 2027. $168 million would go towards starting that project.

Under the proposals, the DoE's Office of Fossil Energy spending would include $79 million for sequestration work including four large-scale field tests, which the DoE says "have the potential to store more than 600 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of mre than 200 years of emissions from energy sources in the USA."

Regulatory delay warning

The budget request by the NRC amounts to $916.6 million, which it says would "support the review of twelve of the new reactor applications anticipated to arrive in 2008, two standard reactor design certification applications, three early reactor site permit applications, and the development of the reactor construction inspection program." The NRC is required by law to recoup $765.1 million of that allocation in fees from its licensees.

However, the current continuing resolution funding would mean NRC
receives $95 million less than was requesed for FY2007.

Edward McGaffigan of the NRC has said that he thinks the continuing delay over approving FY2007 spending could impact the NRC's ability to process new reactor licence applications in 2007: "We are basically going to have to put them on the shelf, because we're not going to have the folks to work on the applications until well into calendar 2008."

Further information

Department of Energy

The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership
Nuclear Regulatory Commission

WNN: US steps out with GNEP program
WNN: Bush: "The way forward is through technology"