[ RadSafe ] House funds Idaho nuclear lab

ROY HERREN royherren2005 at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 15 21:58:54 CST 2005


House funds Idaho nuclear lab
Associated Press writer 
BOISE, Idaho -- The U.S. House has passed a $30.5 billion energy and water appropriations bill for the next fiscal year that includes $40 million to begin development of a new experimental nuclear reactor to produce electricity and hydrogen at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The U.S. Senate was expected to clear the measure Thursday and when it is signed by President Bush, it will direct at least $80 million in "earmarked" federal money specifically requested by members of Congress to projects at the eastern Idaho nuclear research compound northwest of Idaho Falls.

Spending on U.S. Department of Energy nuclear programs at the 890-square-mile site is $50 million more than what the White House sought in its DOE budget request to Congress earlier this year. It underscores the Idaho facility's role in creating the next generation of nuclear power reactors, said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

"Most of the Department of Energy labs either received fairly level funding or a decrease, but the INL budget went up substantially," said Simpson, who with Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was part of the House and Senate conference committee that wrote the final bill that the House approved 399-17 Wednesday afternoon. Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, R-Idaho, joined Simpson in voting for the spending package.

By a 397-19 vote Wednesday, the House also approved a $61.8 billion 2006 spending bill for U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies.

Language sought by Craig and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, was inserted into that spending bill requiring Justice to report to Congress on potential eligibility changes in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include Idaho residents who suffer from certain forms of cancer that may have been caused by nuclear bomb fallout during Cold War-era tests in southern Nevada.

That bill, which will be voted on in the Senate in the next few days, also includes $2 million for NASA research at INL as part of the space agency's budget.

"Overall this budget, in terms of INL, is the best since I have been in Congress," said Simpson, who was first elected in 1998. "It's a recognition of what INL is doing and the importance that the president and Congress is placing in that."

The highest-profile part of the INL funding package is the $40 million for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant Initiative to begin selecting a preferred design for a new nuclear reactor that scientists say would be safer and produce less radioactive waste than current reactors, plus yield commercial quantities of hydrogen along with electricity.

The Next Generation Reactor has been one of the key prongs of the Bush administration's energy policy to prepare for a future 20 years away when most vehicles will run on hydrogen-powered fuel cells.

But after successfully requesting nearly $40 million the past two fiscal years, the Bush administration dropped the project from the fiscal 2006 budget after voicing concerns over the estimated $2 billion construction cost by the time the reactor is scheduled to be up and running in 2017.

Any reluctance by the administration faded after Craig hosted Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman for a tour of the Idaho site in June.

"We have clearly established a forward mission," Craig said in a statement. "This bill strengthens our national nuclear portfolio and ensures the stability of the lab long-term."

But leaders of an Idaho nuclear watchdog group saw less cause to celebrate the hefty appropriation for the desert complex, arguing that many of the INL research programs are aimed at aiding nuclear weapons production rather than nuclear energy.

The bill appropriates $8.5 million to prepare INL as the Energy Department's site for consolidating production of plutonium-238 batteries for national security applications and space missions rather than the current system of producing the long-lasting fuel cells at various federal nuclear labs. The report accompanying the bill says that moving all plutonium-238 production to INL will free up space at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to build new nuclear bomb triggers.

"The next worse thing to actually producing a nuclear weapon is enabling the production of nuclear weapons, and this is one more reason the people of Idaho should reject this project," said Jeremy Maxand of the Boise-based Snake River Alliance.


 Yahoo! FareChase - Search multiple travel sites in one click.  

More information about the RadSafe mailing list