The U.S. Nuclear Industry Council
FY2021 Presidential Budget Request
February 11, 2020
The United States Nuclear Industry Council (USNIC) applauds the general focus and key funding initiatives included in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Congressional Budget Request. This request includes a record $1.36 billion for the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) with an added emphasis on developing advanced reactors and setting up a new reserve for domestically produced uranium.
DOE-NE's research and development (R&D) request of $1.18 billion is up 43% over the FY2020 request and reflects a clear recognition of the need to bring new reactors to market. The demand for next-generation nuclear power is expected to grow as the world expands energy production from clean, zero-emitting sources. More than 20 U.S. companies are currently developing advanced reactors that have the potential to offer greater flexibility in power, size and operation-ultimately making them more affordable to build and operate.
The FY2021 request includes nearly $400 million to support the development of new reactors and fuels. It builds on the momentum of the FY2020 spending bill, which directed DOE to start a new demonstration program for advanced reactors. Advanced nuclear reactors use new coolants, fuels, materials, and designs to increase safety and efficiency, while reducing proliferation risk. While most of these advanced technologies were developed in the United States, test reactors could serve to facilitate the deployment of these promising technologies.
The biggest line item in the FY2021 request is $295 million to support the construction of DOE's proposed Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) to help modernize the nation's nuclear research infrastructure. To maintain U.S. global advanced nuclear leadership, it is important to have a versatile, high-energy neutron source. The U.S. VTR can provide that capability to accelerate research and test nuclear materials, fuel, and other components. The VTR can assist in developing innovative nuclear energy technologies that have inherent safety features, lower waste yields, the capability to consume waste materials, the ability to support both electric and non-electric applications, and other improvements over the current generation of reactors. Furthermore, the success of the VTR will advance the U.S. industry by not having domestic nuclear developers relying upon Russian or Chinese test facilities and allowing the U.S. to be a competitive international resource for irradiation and testing services.
DOE-NE is also asking for $150 million to set up a uranium reserve to further protect the nation's energy security interests, reestablishing the nation's nuclear fuel supply chain through the domestic production and conversion of uranium.
DOE-NE further seeks $27.5 million in funding to support planning for the near-term consolidation and storage of nuclear waste until a long-term solution is determined by Congress. Unfortunately near-term consolidation does not fully meet the long-term needs.
Accordingly, USNIC recognizes the necessity for long-term permanent storage for spent nuclear fuel, and we support efforts to advance this promise to reality. Moreover, we applaud and appreciate the multitude of studies confirming that the Yucca Mountain facility is the appropriate location for such a repository. At the same time we recognize the reality that Congress in its current makeup will not fund the completion of the Yucca Mountain facility as promised long ago. While this is disappointing, it is the unfortunate reality.
Apropos spent fuel storage, it is important to note that advanced nuclear and SMR technology will reduce the amount of waste generated throughout Advanced Reactor and SMR cycles. Although this will not eliminate the need for long-term waste facilities, more advanced and more efficient reactors of the future will be helpful in reducing waste thereby going a long way to ensuring a clearer path to handling future waste.
Additionally, we are encouraged that there is extraordinary interest in continuing development of advanced reactors and small modular reactors. Indeed, just this week a large turnout of advanced reactor developers gathered at the University of Tennessee for the 7th annual Advanced Reactor Summit to discuss the exciting future for the industry. During the summit, executives, academics, CEO's, government regulators, and representatives from throughout the development chain, discussed the clean, carbon-free, technological advancements in which each of these companies is investing. As development continues, we will enjoy greater flexibility in power, size, and operation options that should lead to more flexibility and affordable electricity production.
The future for nuclear power innovation is bright, and we at the United States Nuclear Industry Association are please to be playing a leadership role to help bring these innovations to fruition.
Please note that while these views represent the consensus of the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council, they do not necessarily represent the views of individual member companies.
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