Source: Morning |   December 20, 2019

Advocates praised the $1.49 billion budget for the Office of Nuclear Energy but still want authorizing text

Even as the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act remains stalled in Congress, lawmakers have enacted funding for the Energy Department to help demonstrate multiple advanced reactors in the coming years — a key tenet of NELA.

Congress’ appropriation of more than $1.49 billion for fiscal 2020 for the Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy is paired with explicit instructions for the department to “act aggressively” on a $230 million demonstration program focused on the construction of safe and cost-efficient reactors “in the near- and mid-term.” President Donald Trump is expected to sign the spending bill containing this and other federal appropriations later today.

The funding bill “enshrines the idea that we need to be really focused on big moonshots of developing commercial advanced reactor technology,” said Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath and ClearPath Action, a Washington-based group supporting conservative clean energy innovation. “There’s basically the consensus that the NELA concept is a good concept, and we’re going to start doing it even before NELA itself is passed.”

Such demonstrations are critical to new reactor development, so that when “utilities are in a position to make the decisions to build new nuclear,” there are products available that they want to buy, said Everett Redmond, senior technical adviser for new reactor and advanced technology at the Nuclear Energy Institute trade group.