NE has limited experience of being the PSO for a national laboratory. As such, its procedures and processes for this responsibility are not yet well defined or developed.


Recommendation. NE should meet with DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration organizations that are PSOs for other laboratories to review and discuss their practices and processes. Based on the lessons they learned, it should develop and document its own internal processes and procedures for discharging its responsibilities as the lead PSO for INL.

PROGRAM PRIORITIES, BALANCE, AND OVERSIGHT

The NE budget has experienced wide swings in both size and content over the past 10 years. The committee has reviewed the current NE budget process for annually allocating limited resources among programs. Like the federal budget process in general, the NE process tends to subordinate long-term commitments to more immediate needs. The result of this conflict between the annual budget process and the long-term nature of much of NE’s research has resulted in program goals, schedules, and budgets that are inconsistent. For that very reason, the committee is convinced that NE should set up an internal system to allocate resources consistently over time and among programs.

Program Priorities

To prioritize NE programs, the committee examined their relevance to NE’s mission. The committee’s judgment about priorities is summarized in Table S-1.

Program Balance

Based on these priorities, the committee’s programmatic recommendations that have budget consequences are as follows:

  • Nuclear Power 2010 (NP 2010). DOE should augment this program to ensure timely and cost-effective deployment of the first new reactor plants. Of particular importance is the need to address industrial and human resource infrastructure issues. Although increases in the NP 2010 budget are likely, they do not account for a large fraction of the total NE funding. The NP 2010 requirements should be fully supported.

  • Research in support of the commercial fleet. The committee does not recommend a large federal research program, because most of this research should be industry-supported. However, some specific projects have sufficient public benefit to warrant federal funding, for which DOE should share about 20 percent of the costs 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. A sizeable buildup in nuclear energy production, research, and development necessitates strengthening university capabilities to educate a growing number of young professionals and scientists in the relevant areas. DOE should include this program in its budget at the levels authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

  • Generation IV. NE should sustain a balanced R&D portfolio in advanced reactor development. 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.

TABLE S-1 Relative Priorities of NE R&D Programs and INL

Priority

Program

Comment

High

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.

High

University infrastructure support

University support is largely a government responsibility in the committee’s view.

Medium

Generation IV, NGNP, NHI, and AFCI

These are all longer term research programs with defined downselect decisions that could change the course of research as more is learned. These programs will perform best with research budgets consistent with steady progress toward these decision points.

Medium

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 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.

Low

Major facility deployment (large demonstration or initial commercial plants) in GNEP

U.S. industry does not urgently require the construction of such facilities.



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