WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- President Obama has signed into law the fiscal 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Nuclear energy programs will receive $986 million in fiscal 2016. This is an increase of $80 million (9 percent) over the budget request targeted to critical areas of innovative nuclear energy research that advances clean air energy and energy security for all Americans.
In line with the recent White House Summit on Nuclear Energy and the international agreement resulting from the U.N. climate conference in Paris, the Omnibus Appropriations Act supports funding for small modular reactors and the development of new advanced reactors.
The appropriations bill provides $141 million for reactor concepts research and development (R &D), an increase of $30 million over the budget request, and $203 million for fuel cycle R &D. The small reactor licensing program will continue to receive strong support with funding of $62.5 million in fiscal 2016.
Alex Flint, NEI's senior vice president for governmental affairs, welcomed the increased funding for new reactors.
"The recognition that advanced and small reactors hold great promise as a future source of low-carbon electricity and as an export technology that can create many thousands of U.S. jobs is very positive. It is a smart investment in a low-carbon and a secure energy future for our nation," Flint said.
Nuclear energy facilities operating in 30 states generate 19 percent of total U.S. electricity supplies and generate 63 percent of the electricity that comes from zero-carbon sources.
The final funding deal contains a number of important nuclear energy priorities including:
- a lower U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission budget to better reflect the agency's workload and responsibility to implement efficiencies and reforms that increase transparency and accountability
- predictability for second license renewal permitting nuclear plants to continue to operate for up to 80 years
- rejection of a proposed tax that would have imposed a $200 million/year fee on nuclear rate payers.
"The nuclear energy industry believes the Omnibus Appropriations Act has acted properly to effectively rightsize the NRC's budget to impose greater spending and process discipline on the commission," Flint said. "Lowering fees charged to nuclear power plant licensees is an important step in helping reduce the size of the NRC to match recent changes in the industry. As the NRC itself projected in its Project Aim report unveiled in mid-February, a 10 percent reduction in the size of the agency is needed. The public interest and the agency's safety mission will be better served once the NRC is rightsized, and it increases rigor throughout its regulatory processes. Industry and NRC resources alike must be focused on those areas with high safety significance."
The appropriations package sets a March 2016 deadline for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to submit a plan and timeline for completing the actions needed to facilitate the review of the first license renewal application, expected in 2019, for a nuclear energy facility to continue operating beyond 60 years. Over the past 15 years, 78 reactors have had their licenses renewed for 20 years so they may operate up to 60 years. Second license renewal will facilitate the potential renewal of a nuclear plant's federal operating license every 20 years, enabling some to operate from 60 to 80 years, so long as they continuously meet all federal safety standards.
The Omnibus Appropriations Act rejects the administration proposal to reimpose a 10-year, $2 billion Uranium Decommissioning and Decontamination (D &D) tax on the nuclear energy industry for the decontamination and decommissioning of uranium enrichment facilities that the U.S. Department of Energy operated in three states during the Cold War.
"Besides funding cleanup activities at the sites as part of the cost of enriched uranium purchased from the government for reactor fuel, the industry paid an additional $2.6 billion in taxes for this effort from 1993 to 2008. Additional payments would have placed an unjustified $200 million per year financial burden on ratepayers," Flint said.
The Integrated University Program is a federal program that provides support for the nuclear sector's workforce of the future through nuclear education institutes that develop graduates that fill careers in government, industry and academia. The program will receive $5 million at the U.S. Department of Energy and $15 million at the NRC.
"Encouragingly, the Omnibus Appropriations Act for 2016 includes strong support for nuclear energy to remain a vital component of a diversified electricity portfolio that will strengthen our energy security and increase economic growth while reining in regulatory overreach. We are grateful for the leadership and engagement of Chairmen Alexander and Simpson and Ranking Members Feinstein and Kaptur and their exceptional staffs on nuclear matters. We look forward to continuing to work with them in the coming years," Flint said.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at www.nei.org.
CONTACT: NEI's media relations staff at media(at)nei(dot)org, 202.739.8000 during business hours or 703.644.8805 after hours and weekends.
Source:Nuclear Energy Institute