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Review of Doe’s Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program
TABLE 6-1 Relative Priorities of NE R&D Programs and INL
NP 2010 and research in support of the commercial fleet
Unless the commercial fleet of LWRs grows, nuclear power will be a diminishing energy resource for the United States and there will be little need for all of NE’s longer term research programs. NP 2010 and selected commercial research projects should be fully funded as a matter of highest priority.
University infrastructure support
University support is largely a government responsibility in the committee’s view.
Generation IV, NGNP, NHI, and AFCI
These are all longer term research programs with defined downselect decision points that could change the course of research as more is learned. These programs will perform best if research budgets are consistent with steady progress toward these decision points.
INL programs to reduce deferred maintenance and to build a capacity that will sustain a useful scientific capability
These activities require steady progress but can evolve over a reasonable time. Construction of user facilities and/or program facilities should be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis to validate the need and to avoid duplication with facilities at other national laboratories.
Major facility deployment (large demonstration plants or initial commercial plants) in GNEP
U.S. industry does not urgently require the construction of such facilities.
The DOE-NE university program has been in existence for almost 10 years in support of university reactor basic research, undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships as well as university research reactor fuel assistance and instrumentation and infrastructure. In August 2005, EPAct05 authorized its continuance and expansion; however, DOE discontinued the program. The Congress appropriated funds over this DOE elimination in FY 2006 and FY 2007. The American Nuclear Society (ANS) appointed a special committee of individuals from industry, the national laboratories, and universities and carried out an in-depth review of the program in the fall of 2006.
One of the major conclusions of the ANS review and report is that a clear national interest exists for the federal government, primarily DOE, to continue and expand its stewardship of the U.S. nuclear science and engineering (NSE) education enterprise. Simply put, university-based NSE programs can continue to be leaders in the field only if there is an active, identifiable university program at DOE. The ANS report recommended that NE retain a separate funding line for university programs in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for FY 2007 as well as future years. The committee agrees with that conclusion and urges that NE should fund a separate program, as outlined in EPAct05.
1Information based on American Nuclear Society, Nuclear’s Human Element: A Report of the ANS Special Committee on Federal Investment in Nuclear Education, 2006.
For this reason, the process should be in the hands of individuals with high-level research, government, and industry experience.
Independent. Because it is strategic, the oversight process should be designed to serve not just NE but also DOE management. Ideally, the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress would be willing to give considerable weight to the information produced by the process. Therefore, the composition and organizational position of the oversight body should reflect a substantial degree of independence. A clear policy for handling conflicts of interest and ensuring balance among the members will be essential.
Transparent. The topics studied by the oversight body and the reports it issues should be made public.