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Review of Doe’s Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program
AFCI. NE should pursue the AFCI program with some modifications, as recommended in Chapter 4, but not including construction of large demonstration or commercial-scale facilities. 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 program would differ somewhat from the AFCI program before GNEP.
Major fuel cycle facilities. The committee recognizes that major engineering and commercial-scale facilities will ultimately be required to test and deploy fuel cycle technology. However, it concludes that DOE should not go forward with early deployment of such facilities. These facilities should be funded only when clearly needed, and then as increases to the NE base budget.
INL. It is essential to provide reasonable and predictable funding to support the PSO responsibility for site condition and capacity building. DOE should create a strategic plan based on concepts laid out in Chapter 6 (see Table 6-2) to establish the target funding level for the Idaho Facilities Management account.
Recommendation. As a counterbalance to the short-term nature of the federal budget process, NE should adopt an oversight process for evaluating the adequacy of program plans, evaluating progress against these plans and adjusting resource allocations as planned decision points are reached.
The senior advisory body for NE has been the Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee (NERAC). A modified NERAC seems the obvious starting point for reestablishing oversight of the NE programs. In the committee’s opinion, the key will be to ensure its independence, transparency, and focus on the most important strategic issues. The committee has not attempted to design a specific oversight capability, but the following characteristics would be appropriate for the body it has in mind:
Encourage objectivity by recognizing that knowledgeable persons have different points of view and that balance is therefore best achieved by diversifying the membership of the oversight body.
Avoid conflicts of interest by requiring public disclosure of members’ connections with study sponsors or organizations likely to be affected by study results. Persons directly funded by sponsors are rarely appointed to such bodies.
Ensure transparency by requiring that both the statement of task and the final report for each project are routinely made public in a timely fashion.