The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved three of the 12 fiscal year 2022 funding measures, including an Energy and Water Development bill that provides the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) with an increase of 5.5 percent over last year’s allocation—half of the boost recommended for NE last month by House appropriators.
The Senate panel advanced the legislation by a vote of 25–5, with all five no votes from GOP members: Sens. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), John Kennedy (R., La.), Mike Braun (R., Ind.), Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.).
Pro and con: According to committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), the FY 2022 energy and water bill will speed the nation’s transition to a clean energy economy by supporting “much needed funding for environmental infrastructure improvements, upgrades to our energy grid, and deployment of renewable energy assets across the country.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), the committee’s vice chairman, added his imprimatur, saying, “I am pleased we have approved this strong, balanced bill, which supports a number of important priorities, including nuclear security, critical water and land infrastructure projects, and funding to advance science and research.”
Opposition from the Republican dissenters was based in part on the absence this year of a discretionary spending top line. “It is reckless and irresponsible to move forward without an agreement on top-line spending,” Rubio said, “especially as Democrats attempt to spend $6.5 trillion outside the regular appropriations process.”
Some numbers: The bill tops out at $53.625 billion, $1.87 billion more than the FY 2021 total and an amount equal to the Biden administration’s budget request. Of that, the DOE would receive $45.3 billion, $3.3 billion more than the 2021 level. NE is budgeted at $1.59 billion, up $83.2 million from 2021, but below the White House’s proposed $1.85 billion.
Increases in NE programs from 2021 enacted levels include accident tolerant fuels, $110.15 million, up $4.35 million; Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, $370.35 million, up $120.35 million; and reactor concepts research and development, $232 million, up 24 million.
Following in the footsteps of House appropriators, the Senate committee provided no funding for the Versatile Test Reactor project, which last year received $45 million. The administration had requested $145 million.