NEDHO urges Congress to provide funding for university nuclear programs

May 4, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

With the federal government’s fiscal year 2023 budget process under way, the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) has reached out to congressional appropriators with a letter urging support for the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s research programs.

“Increased congressional support over the last decade has facilitated the domestic demonstration of many advanced reactor concepts, benefiting American jobs and competitiveness,” notes the letter, dated April 27. “We believe that workforce development and early-stage research are also critical to the success of nuclear energy and to maintaining the U.S. leadership in the nuclear energy sector.”

The NEDHO membership is composed of the chairs of 36 nuclear engineering departments and programs at educational institutions in 25 states.

Key points: The letter asks for congressional support in the following areas:

  • Support the presidential budget request level of more than $161 million for Directed R&D and University Programs. “For a little over a decade, university programs in nuclear energy were funded as a percentage of the overall DOE nuclear energy research portfolio. While this approach stabilized the university programs, the program structure created barriers to optimizing research program performance. NEDHO has discussed these issues with your staffs and suggested possible improvements to the DOE. Fiscal year 2022, Congress reestablished a dedicated appropriation line item for university programs in nuclear energy, which has started to address these program limitations and optimize the outcomes from the funded research. We are encouraged to see that the administration’s FY23 budget request continues this line item in recognition of its value to the university research community. It is critical to fully support the university programs as an independent item and to treat the university programs with the same level of enthusiasm as we treat the demonstration programs,” the letter states.
  • Support the establishment of new and upgraded nuclear science and engineering facilities at U.S. universities. “The National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021, which the House has passed in the America COMPETES Act, would authorize a major program to upgrade the U.S. university nuclear energy research infrastructure. These infrastructure improvements enable the development of the next-generation workforce to maintain the current nuclear reactor fleet and to cultivate the next generation of nuclear technology,” the letter notes.

“These two steps are critical in attracting and educating a growing and more diverse workforce dedicated to advancing nuclear energy leadership worldwide,” the letter states. “They are also critical in creating and nurturing the ideas that will accelerate the deployment of the advanced reactors Congress is supporting today and the ideas that will become their successors.”

Key players: The letter was sent to Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio) and Michael Simpson (R., Idaho), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Sens. Diane Feinstein (D., Calif.) and John Kennedy (R., La.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

The letter was signed by NEDHO chair Todd Allen, University of Michigan; NEDHO chair-elect Paul Wilson, University of Wisconsin; and NEDHO Executive Committee members Arthur Motta, Pennsylvania State University, Steven Biegalski, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Kostadin Ivanov, North Carolina State University.

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