Senate passes Energy & Water Appropriations Bill

The Senate earlier today passed the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for FY 2017, which would provide a big boost in funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and would provide $575 million for continued development of the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a primary architect of the bill, said in a statement:

“This legislation brings us one step closer to doubling basic energy research at the Office of Science, fully funds projects that are supported by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and takes an important step toward solving the 25-year-old nuclear waste stalemate. This appropriations bill is consistent with the spending limits Congress set last year, sets priorities that advance our nation’s goals, and eliminates wasteful spending. We did exactly what the Republican Senate majority was elected to do and we were mindful of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Alexander said.

The Senate bill does not include any funds for U.S. participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. The proposed amount was $125 million in FY 2017. The U.S. ITER effort is based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Alexander, who chairs the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, had said earlier he wanted to receive a report from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on the status of ITER and recommendations for moving forward before making a decision on whether the U.S. should remain a partner in the international fusion project.

That report from Moniz was reportedly scheduled to be delivered on May 12, but a spokesman in Alexander’s office said, “We are still waiting to hear from DOE on ITER. They had requested a short extension to finalize things.”

A news release from Alexander’s office stated, “While the bill supports priorities such as energy research, the bill also saves $125 million by eliminating funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project in France. Funding for the ITER project was instead used for higher priority projects within the Office of Science.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.