Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 2010
SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES BIPARTISAN NUCLEAR R&D BILL
Washington D.C. – July 28, 2010- The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment today approved by voice vote H.R. 5866, the Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 2010, a bipartisan bill authorizing a balanced portfolio of nuclear energy research and development (R&D) at the Department of Energy (DOE). The bill updates and expands on nuclear R&D provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
“Our country is eagerly pursuing new energy solutions that will wean us off foreign oil, create American jobs, and clean up our air. Nuclear power fits the bill in every way,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC). “To meet our growing energy needs, we’re going to need to keep building our nuclear power strength. With this opportunity to reinvest in nuclear research, we have an opportunity to tackle two important issues: the nuclear fuel cycle and capital costs.”
The legislation was introduced jointly by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) and Ranking Member Inglis. While supportive of the R&D efforts authorized in H.R. 5866, Republicans expressed concern with broader policy issues t that threaten long-term domestic expansion of nuclear energy.
“Our current disposal policy is insufficient,” Inglis noted. “Nuclear plants have been stockpiling this waste waiting for the Federal government to open Yucca Mountain.”
Republicans unanimously voiced opposition to the Administration’s decision to withdraw the license application for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, without having issued a merit-based decision, based on a detailed scientific review. Rather, the Administration has defended its decision as a “matter of policy,” and instead established a Blue Ribbon Commission to evaluate other options for nuclear storage.
“Unfortunately, responsible long-term storage of our nuclear waste has become strongly politicized, and the Administration continues to snub the explicit will of Congress, the nuclear industry, and electricity rate payers,” Inglis said. “The sooner we resolve uncertainty around nuclear waste storage, the sooner we’ll get more investment in the nuclear industry.”
To advance that objective, Inglis today offered an amendment that would require the Administration’s Commission to compare each of their recommendations in regard to cost, readiness, safety and other factors to the same factors associated with geological disposal at Yucca Mountain. After extensive debate, Inglis withdrew the amendment, with the commitment to raise the issue again when the bill is considered by the full Committee.
Beyond waste storage, Republicans offered several additional amendments to strengthen the bill. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) offered a successful amendment calling for R&D to support streamlining the licensing and approval process for new nuclear designs. A second amendment by Rep. Biggert to authorize additional advanced nuclear fuel recycling R&D activities was also passed by voice vote.
Another successful amendment, offered by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), directs the Secretary of Energy to coordinate DOE research on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) with the Secretary of the Navy’s existing small reactor programs. In hearings, witnesses have told the Committee that the federal government can best advance new reactor design and development through support of SMRs to complement existing large scale nuclear plants.