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Industry Urges Congress To 'Right-Size' Obama Budget Request for NRC

Safety-Focused Reforms Urged, Investment in Advanced Reactors Commended

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| Source: Nuclear Energy Institute

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 10, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The nuclear energy industry voiced displeasure today with the Obama administration's fiscal 2017 budget request for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying it falls far short of needed efficiencies and cost-cutting. The administration submitted a budget request that is a mere 0.5 percent ($4.7 million) lower than this year's $982 million NRC budget.

The administration seeks to portray a deeper reduction by dropping $15 million for an education and workforce training program that Congress has re-inserted in the NRC budget for the past several years. The flat funding request comes despite the agency's recent Project Aim announcement that it would enact structural reforms to improve its agility, efficiency and overall effectiveness.

"Federal appropriators should demand additional efficiencies at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," said Alex Flint, senior vice president for governmental affairs at NEI. "The public interest and the agency's safety mission will be better served once the NRC is right-sized, and it increases rigor throughout its regulatory processes. Industry and NRC resources alike must be focused on those areas with the highest safety significance."

Of additional concern is the administration's request to reinstate a tax on consumers of electricity in more than 30 states for the cleanup of U.S. Department of Energy uranium enrichment facilities. This is the latest of multiple attempts by the Obama administration to reinstate the uranium enrichment decontamination and decommissioning tax, even though industry met its $2.6 billion financial commitment under a 1992 law, and Congress has consistently rejected the proposed tax.

"Industry recognizes that the federal government is under significant budget pressures, but reinstating unjustified taxes on utility consumers while the government has failed to meet its own obligation is outrageously unfair," Flint said.

The administration's fiscal 2017 budget proposal for DOE is $32.5 billion. DOE's budget contains $994 million for nuclear energy programs, including research and development for advanced reactors, support for fuel cycle technologies and the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies effort addressing common challenges at existing facilities. This is an $8 million increase over the $986 million allotted to the Office of Nuclear Energy in the current fiscal year.

Included in the administration's request is $89 million to continue supporting certification and licensing assistance for the small reactor design being developed by NuScale under a cost-share public-private partnership with DOE and to support Tennessee Valley Authority's development of a Combined Operating License Application for eventual siting of a small modular reactor at the Clinch River Site. The budget for this fiscal year authorized $62.5 million for small reactors.

"The industry compliments DOE on its continued support for the development of small reactor technology," Flint said. "Small, scalable nuclear energy facilities will be an innovative addition to our electricity mix; they can also be a linchpin in U.S. efforts to regain global leadership in clean energy technologies through international sales of components and services.

"The administration recognizes that advanced and small reactors hold great promise as a future source of carbon-free electricity and as an export technology that can create many thousands of U.S. jobs."

NEI is disappointed that President Obama failed to realize the continued need to fund the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, which is more than 65 percent complete at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The MOX program is a foundational component of our nation's nonproliferation strategy, as it will convert more than 17,000 nuclear weapons held by the United States and the Russian Federation into fuel to generate carbon-free electricity. The alternative proposed by the president is not politically or technically feasible. NEI will ask Congress to provide funding for construction of this project of national security importance continues.

"We look forward to working with Congress this year on the budget process," Flint said. "Nuclear energy plays a vital role in meeting our nation's clean-air electricity needs, protecting the environment, and preserving the fuel and technology diversity that is the strength of the U.S. electricity supply system."

The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at www.nei.org.

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