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During a speech Wednesday at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the Obama administration is committed to “help jumpstart America’s nuclear industry.”Last week, federal regulators granted the first licenses in three decades for two reactors under construction at Vogtle. Chu’s speech made note of $8 billion in conditional loan guarantees for the project, as well as spending for nuclear research in the Department of Energy’s proposed 2013 budget.“Nuclear energy is a critical part of President Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that will help build an American economy to last. The Fukushima disaster reminds us that nuclear safety and security require continued vigilance, and we are committed to harnessing nuclear energy – and all our energy resources – in a safe and responsible manner,” Chu said.The secretary announced a proposal for $10 million in new reactor research over three years, split between $3 million in projects to improve the production and design efficiency of plant components and $7 million in projects studying advanced materials. He also offered more details on $60 million proposed to help enact the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Funds would be used to study consolidated interim waste storage and transportation issues focused initially on decommissioned sites, as well as standardized approaches to spent fuel management, geologic storage and materials testing for extended spent fuel storage.
The 2013 DOE budget includes about $770 million for nuclear power, although advocates for the industry were displeased with a number of details in the proposal. The Nuclear Energy Institute noted that, taken together, DOE nuclear programs would see a 10 percent cut in overall funding. The proposed budget would not fund university nuclear energy programs. It would also reduce funding for reactor concepts research and nuclear enabling technologies.