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House Appropriations Subcommittee approves INL Infrastructure, Cleanup Funds

Idaho Congressman secures funding to promote funding for buildings, infrastructure at the Idaho National Laboratory and ongoing cleanup at the Idaho Cleanup Project

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, today announced the inclusion of funding for the Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho Cleanup Project as part of legislation funding the Department of Energy in Fiscal Year 2011.  This legislation was approved today by the Subcommittee.

This legislation provides $174 million for the new facilities and management at the Idaho National Laboratory, which is an increase of $11.5 million over the President’s request.  This additional funding is available for a variety of uses including new buildings, renovation of existing facilities, development of new capabilities, and the Advanced Test Reactor’s operation as a National Scientific User Facility.

“This funding demonstrates the continued commitment by the Committee and Congress to revitalize the INL’s infrastructure and maintain its position as the lead nuclear laboratory in the country,” said Simpson.  “The employees at the INL should be proud that their cutting edge work is being recognized by the continued investment in the facilities and capabilities at the Lab.”

This legislation provides $422 million for cleanup activities at the Idaho National Laboratory, which is a $10 million increase over the President’s request.  It also provides $9 million for the National Spent Nuclear Fuel program.  This program oversees the regulatory compliance and disposition of DOE-owned spent nuclear fuel, which is even more important given DOE’s efforts to cancel the Yucca Mountain program.

This legislation provides no funding to continue the licensing activities at Yucca Mountain.  While Republicans offered an amendment to provide $100 million for this program, it was defeated on a party line vote.  “The House has repeatedly demonstrated its support for opening Yucca Mountain, and I am disappointed to see that Nevada politics are now setting policy decisions in the House,” said Simpson.

While Members usually wait to offer amendments until the full Committee markup, Republicans chose to offer amendments at the Subcommittee because it remains unclear if the full Committee will mark up bills this year.  Congressman Simpson offered two amendments at the markup and both were voted down on a party line vote.

The bill provides $25 billion for loan guarantees for nuclear power plants and $25 billion for loan guarantees for renewable energy projects.  Simpson’s first amendment would have cut the additional funding for the renewable energy projects.  “While I strongly support the loan guarantee program as a fiscally sound way to jumpstart our energy industry, I cannot ask taxpayers to provide additional funding for the renewable energy program when there is over $50 billion in loan guarantee authority sitting at the Department of Energy waiting to be awarded,” said Simpson.  “We should save our taxpayer dollars until the kinks have been worked out and taxpayers can feel confident that this money is being used in a wise and industrious manner.”

Currently, US consumers of nuclear power pay a 0.01 cents per kilowatt hour tax into the Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for the design and construction of a nuclear waste repository, which was being constructed at Yucca Mountain.  Given DOE’s attempts to shut down Yucca Mountain, the second amendment Simpson offered would halt the collection of fees paid by consumers until the government meets its commitment to ratepayers to dispose of the nuclear waste.  “Why should ratepayers continue to give the government their hard-earned dollars when the government has failed to meet their legal obligation to dispose of the commercial nuclear waste,” Simpson questioned.  “This amendment will keep money in the hands of hardworking American families to spend on their needs and to restart our economy instead of putting it in the hands of the government.”

This bill was approved by the Subcommittee and now awaits consideration by the full Appropriations Committee.