KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the University of Tennessee up to $1.3 million in grants for nuclear energy research and development.
The university is getting $846,000 to develop new and advanced reactor designs. Another $538,000 is for research on innovative nuclear science and engineering projects.
UT was among 31 universities in more than 20 states to receive such grants. In all, 51 awards were announced. The various projects are designed to cut carbon pollution, create clean energy jobs and strengthen the nuclear energy industry.
OAK RIDGE – It was a briefing, not a negotiation, but there was plenty of give and take Wednesday when Gov. Bill Haslam and members of his administration met with federal officials in Oak Ridge to discuss budgets, cleanup and other issues that could become contentious in the months and years ahead.
More from Frank Munger’s report:
Following the meeting at Y-12’s New Hope Center, Haslam said he wants the state to have a good working relationship with the Department of Energy – one that doesn’t involve disputes and court battles. But, he emphasized, members of his administration don’t want that good will used against them.
He noted that Oak Ridge hasn’t fared as well as other DOE sites around the country when it comes to funding for cleanup projects, which are important for the environment and the economy.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has raised that issue for years; yet this year’s spending on Oak Ridge cleanup dropped precipitously to about $400 million – the lowest in years.
John Eschenberg, DOE’s cleanup chief in Oak Ridge, agreed that the Oak Ridge share of the total cleanup funding was not what it should be percentage wise. Oak Ridge currently is getting a little more than 6 percent of DOE’s cleanup budget of $5.6 billion, he said.
Tennessee Valley Authority ratepayers may have subsidized millions of dollars in tritium production costs for the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal, according Anne Paine.
An audit of the program in which TVA’s Watts Bar nuclear power plant makes bomb-triggering material for the U.S. Department of Energy turned up a major lack of data and other shortcomings that leave questions about who is paying. That could include whether the nation’s taxpayers are subsidizing electricity production for ratepayers.
In 2003, TVA’s Watts Bar became the first and only commercial reactor in this country that is used for electricity generation and also provides radioactive tritium for weapons. A summary of the audit by TVA’s Office of Inspector General included statements that the power producer had failed to address $9 million in “under-recovered overhead” that an earlier audit had found. The rates negotiated with DOE didn’t accurately reflect the anticipated costs of the program.
“We were unable to determine if tritium costs were accurately identified and invoiced or if any negative impacts on plant operation from tritium were reimbursed by DOE due to inadequate documentation,” the Inspector General office said in the summary released in May.
TVA nuclear power division officials say the issues occurred with the startup of the complex and unique program and also a changeover of accounting systems.
“If there were cases where TVA customers may have been subsidizing the program, there’ll be an effort to recover that money,” said Ray Golden, TVA spokesman. “In cases where we overcharged the Department of Energy, there’ll be a trueing up of that as well.”
Public anxiety over $4 gasoline has given U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander the chance to preach about two of his favorite energy topics, reports Michael Collins. That would be wind power and electric cars.
The day after Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bill that would have eliminated about $2 billion in tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies, Alexander stood on the Senate floor and suggested subsidies for wind power should be terminated.
“Why are we talking about Big Oil and not talking about Big Wind?” he asked.
The next day, the Maryville Republican appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to argue that short-term incentives to jump-start the use of electric vehicles is the best way to use less energy and keep down gas prices.
“If you believe that the solution to $4 gasoline and high energy prices is finding more American energy and using less, this is the best way to use less,” Alexander said.
Alexander has never made a secret of his disdain for wind power, which he argues is expensive and unreliable. At the same time, he has become one of Congress’ most enthusiastic cheerleaders for electric cars.
From the House Republican Caucus:
(May 3, 2011, NASHVILLE) – The House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R–Chattanooga) today announced the formation of a Republican Caucus Energy Task Force in the House of Representatives.
In a letter released by the Majority Leader, the group–comprised of six House Members–will “explore the various ways that the energy industry can provide a positive impact on job growth and economic development in our State.” The task force will “seek input from various outside groups, including the Department of Economic and Community Development.” The group will report back to the full Republican Caucus on the results of their study on this subject.
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News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee is expected to receive more than $26 million to fund energy conservation, alternative energy and/or pollution reduction projects, which will also reduce air pollution as the result of an agreement approved today by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors.
The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, will join Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina in filing an agreement today in the form of a consent decree, resolving years of allegations that the utility violated the Clean Air Act. A coalition of citizen groups filed their own complaint, which will be consolidated with the states’ complaint, allowing the citizen groups to join in the agreement with the states.
Tennessee’s agreement coincides with an agreement being filed today between TVA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). TVA will pay the states and the EPA a combined total of $350 million to fund environmental projects, as well as $10 million in civil penalties. The $350 million is payable over the next five years, and the civil penalties are payable 30 days after the date the agreement is entered by the court. Tennessee will receive the largest state’s share, $26.4 million for environmental projects and $1 million in civil penalties.
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