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“Nuclear Waste” Characterizes Bush 2004 Energy Budget Request

Feb. 4, 2003

“Nuclear Waste” Characterizes Bush 2004 Energy Budget Request

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, and Alice Slater, President, Global Resource Action Center for the Environment

This week, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, in unveiling the Department of Energy’s fiscal year 2004 budget request, made clear that the “nuclear waste” that has characterized Bush administration energy policies may continue. With just $147 million budgeted for wind, solar and geothermal energy programs combined, the administration proposes to spend more than twice as much – $388 million – on nuclear energy supply programs. Although Secretary Abraham introduced the budget as providing “energy and environmental solutions,” the numbers show that this administration is more committed to keeping nuclear industry campaign contributors happy than in prioritizing a transition to safe, clean and affordable energy. Here is our watch list of nuclear boondoggles:

  • $591 million requested for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, including $161 million from the ratepayer-funded Nuclear Waste Fund and $430 million from Treasury (i.e. taxpayers). With total project costs estimates now spiraling above $60 billion, the Department of Energy’s established record of project mismanagement, and continuing scientific, environmental and policy problems, this line item tops our list of nuclear boondoggles.
  • $35 million requested for “Nuclear Power 2010,” the Bush program introduced in 2003, to promote the construction of new commercial nuclear power plants through taxpayer subsidies to some of the biggest energy companies in the market. There is no justification for continuing to subsidize this mature industry. New reactors would impose additional safety and security risks and exacerbate the country’s nuclear waste problem.
  • $63 million requested for reprocessing technologies (“Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative”), up $44.8 million from this year’s request. These messy and expensive processes, abandoned in the United States since the Carter administration, separate weapons-grade plutonium from high-level radioactive waste. Far from solving the nuclear waste problem, reprocessing introduces a host of additional environmental and proliferation concerns.
  • $127 million for nuclear research and development, including the “Generation IV” program to develop new reactor designs, the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) and a nuclear hydrogen initiative for generating hydrogen through nuclear technologies, as well as the Nuclear Power 2010 and Advanced Fuel Cycle programs listed above.