TABLE 6-2 Budget Recommendations for NE R&D Programs and INL

Program

Budget Issue

Recommended Action

NP 2010

Current funding is as much as a third less than needed to maintain program momentum, and funding is likely to be needed for longer than the current program plan estimates.

Although increases in the NP 2010 budget are likely, they do not make up a large fraction of the total NE funding. The NP 2010 requirements should be fully supported.

Research in support of the commercial fleet

Not presently funded, although some DOE support of continued research on existing and new reactors in the commercial fleet is appropriate.

DOE should provide cost sharing in the 20 percent range and support user facilities at incremental cost. These elements of the program should be fully funded when the NP 2010 licensing and design completion efforts come to an end.

University infrastructure support

Funding at (recent) FY 2006 appropriated levels is appropriate.

DOE should include this program explicitly in its budget at the levels authorized by EPAct05 (see Box 6-1).

Generation IV and NHI

Current funding is considerably less than that required to meet stated goals, especially for NGNP. Full funding would mean ~$50 million to 60 million more annually.

The program requires predictable and steady funding, but its goals can be more modest and its timetables stretched. A revised program can be conducted within levels recently appropriated for Generation IV and for SFR-related R&D under GNEP.

AFCI and fast reactor fuel qualification

Recent proposals for GNEP have substantially increased the NE budget.

The committee recommends a more modest and longer-term program of applied research and engineering, including new research-scale experimental capabilities as envisioned for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Facility, although the design of the program would differ somewhat from the AFCI program before GNEP.

INL programs to reduce deferred maintenance and to build a capacity that will sustain a useful scientific capability

Current budgets for INL deferred maintenance and other landlord demands are substantially below optimal levels. Using the Ten-Year Site Plan as a basis, the shortfall could be on the order of $50 million per year. The capacity-building strategy at INL has not yet been agreed on or costed out.

It is essential to provide reasonable and predictable funding to support the PSO responsibility for site condition and capacity building. However, the funding required for managing the site infrastructure can be reduced by giving priority to mission-critical facilities. Both infrastructure support and capacity-building measures can be supplemented by indirect cost and contributions from non-NE programs (such as the large U.S. Department of Homeland Security program at INL). Finally, care should be taken to avoid duplication of capabilities at other national laboratories. A strategic plan based on these concepts is needed to establish the target funding level for the Idaho Facilities Management account.

Major facility deployment

The current GNEP concept envisions major demonstration or precommercial facilities. The Generation IV program, if successful, could require an NGNP demonstration plant.

These facilities should be funded only when clearly needed, and then as increases to the NE base budget.

The senior advisory body for NE has been the Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee (NERAC). This review committee was formed about 10 years ago when the nuclear energy research budget began to grow beyond facilities and infrastructure support. From 1998 through 2005, NERAC gave NE advice on a range of matters, among them:

  • Infrastructure for nuclear energy research,

  • The education of future nuclear engineers,

  • The Generation IV Technology Roadmap,

  • Assessment of technology for advanced nuclear processes,

  • Review of the Next-Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP), and

  • A roadmap for deploying new nuclear power plants in the United States.

In recent years, however, NERAC has not been effective, for reasons that are not entirely clear. It was largely inactive during the year or so when the director of NE left, the directorship of the Office was elevated to the assistant secretary level, and the new assistant secretary was in place. The upshot was that neither NERAC nor any other external body was much consulted for strategic oversight or advice during a time when the NE program was undergoing major change.

NERAC seems the obvious starting point for reestablishing oversight of the NE programs. In the committee’s opinion, the key will be to ensure NERAC’s independence and transparency, and allow it to focus on important strategic issues. The committee has not attempted to recommend for NERAC a specific oversight capability, but the oversight body has in mind that it would:



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