US budget request reflects nuclear commitments

03 February 2015

The $30 billion earmarked for the US Department of Energy (DOE) in the 2016 budget proposal is 9% up on the amount it received for 2015. The $1 billion budget requested by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is nearly 3% down on the previous year as its new reactor workload decreases.

The process to decide the US governmental budget traditionally begins with the submission of the president's budget request to the US Congress in early February. The final allocations are decided after consideration and debate in the US Congress ahead of the start of the financial year on 1 October.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that the DOE's share of the budget request reflected President Barack Obama's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy, envisaging a transition to a low-carbon energy future through the development of a range of technologies including nuclear.

The budget proposal includes nearly $5 billion for research and development in "critical" technology areas, including nuclear safety, plus $5.3 billion to support DOE's role in the country's research community. Some $908 million of the funding is earmarked for nuclear energy research and development in advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies as well as small modular reactor licensing and technical support.

The National Nuclear and Security Administration's (NNSA) portion of the DOE's proposed budget stands at $12.6 billion, about 10.2% up from the funding received in fiscal 2015. Funding for the construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at Savannah River will continue at the same level as in fiscal 2015 pending the outcome of further studies on the path to plutonium disposition. The partially built facility, a key component of the country's plutonium disposition program, was effectively cut out of the 2015 budget request but its construction licence was extended to 2025 in November.

The nuclear security budget also includes $1.4 billion to support naval nuclear propulsion, including the development of a new naval submarine reactor.

NRC takes prudent path

NRC chairman Stephen Burns said the commission's $1032 million budget request reflected "today's realities" and heralded "a new era in enhancing accountability within the NRC for the prudent use of resources."

The request includes a total of $793.4 million for reactor safety programs (including new reactors), $226.7 million for nuclear materials and waste, and $12.1 million for the Office of the Inspector General, which is responsible for independently auditing NRC programs to ensure their efficiency and integrity. Activities stemming from lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident, including seismic and flooding hazard re-evaluations, will continue to be a matter of high priority under the NRC's reactor safety programs.

The NRC's budget request is $27.3 million less than its 2015 submission, and reflects a decrease of 140.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees to a staff of 3741 FTE. The NRC says the decrease is due to a decreasing workload for its New Reactors and Fuel Facilities business lines, as well as efficiencies from the merger of two program offices.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News