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Statement of William D. Magwood, IV
Associate Director, Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology

U.S. Department of Energy

Before the
Subcommittee on Energy and Environment

House Science Committee

February 25, 1998

Mr. Chairman, I am William D. Magwood, IV, Associate Director of the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology. I am pleased to have this opportunity to present our fiscal year 1999 budget request to you today. Nuclear Energy represents the core of the U.S. Government's expertise in nuclear energy research, technology, and engineering. This technical expertise enables us to play a vital role in addressing the nation's nuclear energy issues, and it equips us to address the energy-related challenges of the future. As we enter the 21st century, it is important that the United States maintain its leadership role in nuclear science and technology in order to help preserve and foster the security, economic well-being, and environmental goals of the American people. Nuclear Energy's activities--at home and in the international arena--are key to enhancing U.S. security interests, maintaining the nation's access to diverse, environmentally-responsible sources of energy, providing vital isotopes for research and medical use, supporting important scientific endeavors such as the exploration of deep space, and advancing our global economic and technological competitiveness.

Enhancing the Nation's Energy Resources We are placing greater emphasis this year on our nuclear energy research activities in response to recent recommendations made by the Federal Energy Research and Development Panel of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). This panel concluded that nuclear energy could help address the challenge of global climate change and address other energy-related issues by reducing dependence on imported oil, reducing air and water pollution, and increasing exports of energy technologies. In a report published in November 1997, the committee also noted that problems associated with nuclear waste storage and disposal, nuclear weapons proliferation, and plant operational safety and economics cloud fission's potential as an acceptable power source today and into the future. Our initiatives for fiscal year 1999 are aimed at addressing these issues. The Department believes that nuclear energy is, and must remain, an important part of the nation's energy technology portfolio. Nuclear energy generates electricity without producing carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, or nitrous oxide emissions. Over the last 20 years, the use of nucleargenerated electricity has avoided more than 1,700 million metric tons of carbon that would have been emitted by an equivalent number of coal-fueled power plants.

As recommended by the PCAST Panel, we are proposing a Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization effort to help enhance the capability of our existing U.S. nuclear power plants to continue to make a major contribution to meeting the nation's electric energy needs without emitting significant amounts of our pollution of greenhouse gases. The research and development (R&D) program we are proposing will address technical and regulatory barriers to the continued operation of U.S. nuclear power plants and increase their efficiency, productivity, and reliability. This program is being developed in cooperation with the Electric Power Research Institute as a cost-shared program with industry.

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To address key issues affecting the ong-term future of nuclear energy and to preserve the nation's nucloar science and technology leadership, we are also proposing a Nuclear Energy Research Initiative. This new initiative implements recommendations from the recent PCAST report regarding energy and the environment. This initiative, which also arises from a recommendation made by the PCAST panel, represents a major change in the management approach to federal nuclear energy research. The Nuclear Energy Research Initiative features a competitive, peer-reviewed selection process that will select innovative proposals initiated by researchers from the universities, national laboratories, and industry, based upon their technical excellence and relevance to the Nation's longterm strategic needs. The planning for this program will rely heavily on the input of our stakeholders, including many of the critics of the Department's past nuclear energy research activities. As an example, Nuclear Energy is sponsoring a Nuclear Energy Research Initiative workshop in late April to enlist outside input in shaping the program. Once the program is in place, the Department will solicit innovative concepts that can address many of the long-term issues associated with nuclear energy. Examples of the areas in which this initiative will support new research and technologies include proliferation-resistant reactor and fuel cycles, and advanced reactors with higher efficiency, lower cost, and improved safety.

In fiscal year 1999, we propose to apply a total of $10.0 million to enhance research and education programs at universities and colleges across the country. Only a work force educated in the nuclear sciences will be able to ensure the future ability of the United States to continue to apply the radiation sciences to medical research, the development of new materials, and future environmental and energy challenges. Our program will provide fellowships and scholarships to outstanding students, support research in the crucial field of radiochemistry, and increase our efforts to preserve and upgrade nuclear research facilities at universities across the nation.

In fiscal year 1999. we will also coordinate the efforts of universities, national laboratories, electric utilities, and others to help vital university research reactor facilities remain available for the students and scientists of the 21st century. University research reactors are a little-known but essential part of the nation's scientific infrastructure. There are 31 university research reactors at 29 universities in 26 states. Without these research reactors, many new materials and vital isotopes might not be developed, and important breakthroughs may not take place in fields as diverse as nuclear medicine and archeology. To ensure that these valuable scientific and educational tools are available into the next decade, in fiscal year 1999, we will expand our program to assist in the maintenance and modernization of university research reactors by replacing outdated equipment and upgrading experimental capabilities.

Securing the Nation's Environmental Future The Department is also responsible for the safe storage and disposal of approximately 8,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel containing about 2,700 metric tons of uranium and transuranic elements from various civilian and defense-related programs. Some of these spent fuels contain materials or are in a condition that may preclude their direct disposal in a geologic repository. One technology which may someday assist the Department in dealing with this spent fuel challenge is the

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electrometallurgical treatment technology under development at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). In particular, this technology may be the best way to deal with the sodium-bearing spent fuel removed from the Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I). This spent fuel contains metallic sodium, a material which can cause an explosion when brought into contact with water. During fiscal year 1999, a demonstration of this process for the treatment of EBR-I spent nuclear fuel will be completed. The National Academy of Sciences will provide the Department with an independent evaluation of this demonstration. If the demonstration proves successful, the Department may conduct a detailed environmental review, taking into account the overall Department environmental management strategy, to reach a decision on future use of electrometallurgical treatment. This broader study will consider the technology being demonstrated in a larger context, weighing its relative costs and benefits against other alternatives.

Nuclear Energy also is responsible for managing and operating Department's research and test reactors, including the High Flux Beam Reactor, the Brookhaven Medical Research Reactor at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the High Flux Isotope Reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Office of Energy Research and the Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Engineering and Experimental Laboratory (INEEL) for Naval Reactors. As part of our Isotope Program, we also manage the Annular Core Research Reactor at Sandia National Laboratories which is being readied to produce molybdenum-99. Finally, Nuclear Energy is responsible for all operations associated with the Experimental Breeder Reactor-I in Idaho, which is being deactivated; and the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) in Hanford, Washington. FFTF, the Department's largest and most modern test reactor, continues to be maintained in a defueled, standby condition while we further evaluate the potential use of the facility for the production of tritium and medical isotopes.

Our office also plays a key role in U.S. nonproliferation policies. We are leading the nation's technical activities involved in monitoring the Russian program to dilute 500 metric tons of highly enriched wanium (HEL) from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads to commercial-grade uranium that cannot be used in nuclear weapons. We also continue to work with the Department of Defense to implement the agreement between the United States and Russia to cease production of weapons-grade plutonium in Russia by the year 2000.

Our office manages important government activities related to the federal uranium enrichment program that were not transferred to the United States Enrichment Corporation. In particular, this program addresses the facility and environmental legacies associated with the enrichment program, management of assets not leased to the Corporation, and technology transfer.

A principal responsibility under Nuclear Energy's Uranium Program is to assure effective management of the Department's excess uranium and depleted uranium hexafluoride inventories. For the past several years, the Department has been improving the storage conditions for the over 46,000 cylinders consistent with a Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recommendation. We ensure that the cylinders are maintained safely through inspections, relocations, repainting, and monitoring. We have also been evaluating alternative plans for the long term management of the material. The Department published a draft programmatic environmental impact statement in December 1997 that assesses the impacts of several alternative plans. We will select a plan and announce the selection in the programmatic EIS record of decision planned for early FY 1999. The preferred alternative in the draft programmatic EIS is to find economically attractive uses for this material that would encourage the involvement of the private sector and reduce the cost of ultimate disposition to the taxpayers.

The Department is also responsible for the sale of surplus natural assay and low-enriched uranium. In its first year of selling uranium, the Department delivered approximately 4.65 million pounds of natural uranium and returned about $53 million to the U.S. Treasury. Future sales are expected to raise an additional $400 million over the next six years. In addition, surplus uranium will be used to meet existing nuclear safety upgrades liabilities at the gaseous diffusion plants.

Enhancing the Nation's Economic and Technological Competitiveness Our Isotope Production and Distribution Program provides a wide variety of radioactive and stable isotope products and services to domestic and international customers for use in medical research, national defense, industrial applications, and scientific research. One of our major initiatives is to establish a U.S. production capability for molybdenum-99, a precursor of technetium-99, which is used for diagnostic imaging including body organ functions. Used in more than 36,000 medical procedures each day in the United States alone, this isotope enables physicians to diagnose diseases such as cancer without resorting to exploratory surgery. To help ensure a reliable, source of supply until alternative reliable sources become available, the Department is continuing the medical isotopes production project initiated in fiscal year 1997 to produce molybdenum-99, using facilities at two of our national laboratories.

Finally, we will continue to provide safe, proven, reliable, maintenance-free radioisotope power systems for use in space and terrestrial applications as we have for more than 35 years. In 1997, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn using electric power from radioisotope thermoelectric generators provided by the Department. Future NASA missions will require even lighter, lower power systems, more efficient energy conversion, and new materials. In fiscal year 1999, we will continue to develop the state-of-the-art power supplies required to support both national security applications and future NASA projects such as a possible mission to Pluto.

While managing these programs. Nuclear Energy is also implementing a plan that will enable it to meet or surpass goals set by the National Performance Review. Over the past four years, we have reduced our Headquarters' staff by 50 percent, reduced support service contracting by 56 percent, and improved our supervisor to employee ratio to 1:12.

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Nuclear Energy's fiscal year 1999 funding request is outlined in the following table:

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TOTAL NUCLEAR ENERGY, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY REQUEST $325.8

* Includes $31.2 million in activities transferred from the Environmental Management budget associated with the Fast Flux Test Facility.

I will now provide the Committee with greater detail regarding the importance of our programs and the benefits they provide.

NUCLEAR ENERGY (R&D)

Nuclear power is an important element in the overall energy supply mix of both the United States and the world, particularly as it relates to the interational effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear energy currently provides almost 22 percent of C.S. electricity generation and can continue to contribute a significant portion for many years to come. Nearly half of the 50 U.S. States receive over 25 percent of their electricity from nuclear power. Nuclear energy generates approximately 17 percent of the world's electricity from more than 440 nuclear plants in 30 countries. Worldwide, 15 countries generate at least 30 percent of their electricity from nuclear energy, 77 percent in France, 33 percent in Japan, and 26 percent in the United Kingdom. Nuclear energy generates electricity without producing carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, or nitrous oxide emissions that occur with the use of fossil fuels. Over the last 20 years, the use of nuclear-generated electricity has avoided more than 1,700 million metric tons of carbon that would have been emitted by coal-fueled power plants. This represents about 90 percent of the carbon emissions avoided by

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