March 11, 2009

Chu Confirms INL Role In Future Nuclear Efforts

Crapo questions Energy Secretary today at Senate Budget Committee hearing

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo won a commitment from Energy Secretary Steven Chu today that the Idaho National Laboratory will play an ongoing role in advancing nuclear research that could change the way the nation handles not only future technology but the disposal of waste products. Crapo told Secretary Chu he was disappointed that funding for nuclear initiatives and for the Yucca Mountain Repository has been cut back in President Obama's FY 2010 budget.

"Are you and the Administration committed to properly funding these R&D activities?" Crapo asked Chu during a hearing today before the Senate Budget Committee on the President's budget.

"The simple answer is yes…I have a record of saying that nuclear has to be part of our energy mix in this century," Chu responded.

Crapo noted Chu praised nuclear power as "essential" to the nation's energy policy during his tenure as head of the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. Chu told Crapo he envisions an accelerated schedule to recycle more nuclear materials and that the INL would play a leading role in the research to accomplish that effort.

Crapo said he was "very discouraged" in the President's decision to cut funding for the Yucca Mountain Repository because the federal government has signed a court agreement with the State of Idaho to remove high-level nuclear waste stored in Idaho to a new location by 2035. Yucca was slated to take much of the waste but Chu is now proposing the increased use of dry cask storage for spent waste around the country.

"That's not going to help Idaho," Crapo said. "If you are going to shift from Yucca Mountain, we may be looking at a long time frame before you come up with the next option."

"It is my understanding that by 2035 it should be ready to ship out," Chu responded, citing the work of a blue-ribbon committee that will study the issue this year. "This will be done this year, and then we can move in a way that would not take as long as the previous experiences."

Chu and Crapo agreed that work at the Idaho National Laboratory would be part of finding a solution to the waste issue. Crapo also called on Chu to support tax credits and federal loan guarantees for nuclear power initiatives.