US president Donald Trump has requested a budget of $35.4bn for the Department of Energy (DOE) in fiscal year 2021, including “a record” $1.36bn for the Office of Nuclear Energy (ONE) with a focus on developing advanced reactors and creating a new reserve for domestically produced uranium.

The ONE said in a statement that its R&D funding request for 2021 is $1.18bn, a figure 43% higher than the $824m sought in 2020. The statement said this is the largest budget figure ever asked by the ONE and is a sign the office recognises the need to bring new reactors to market.

The R&D request includes nearly $400m to support the development of new reactors and fuels and $295m for forwarding the construction of DOE’s proposed Versatile Test Reactor (VTR), the ONE said.

The VTR will allow irradiation testing at higher neutron fluxes than what is currently available today and is needed to accelerate the testing of advanced nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation and sensors required by new designs and the existing fleet, the ONE said.

The ONE has additionally requested $150m for the setup of a national uranium reserve with the aim to protect the US energy security interests by reestablishing the nation’s nuclear fuel supply chain through the domestic production and conversion of uranium.

The reserve is expected to support the operation of at least two domestic uranium mines and ensure there is backup nuclear fuel supply in the event of a significant market disruption, the ONE said.

For nuclear waste management, the ONE has requested $27.5m to fund the planning process for the near-term consolidation and storage of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste until a long-term solution is chosen by Congress.

There has been no allocation in the DOE budget request for the Yucca Mountain deep geological repository project in Nevada, for which the Trump administration requested $116m in fiscal year 2020 to restart application licensing procedures.

Overall, the DOE 2021 budget request is $3.7bn higher than that of 2020, an increase of nearly 11%.

The US president’s budget proposal is non-binding and is now subjected to approval by Congress, which sets the final spending limits for the fiscal year.

Date: Wednesday, 12 February 2020
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