House approves FY 2024 energy funding bill

November 1, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

With a new speaker finally seated, the GOP-led House of Representatives recently passed the fiscal year 2024 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4394) in a near–party line vote of 210–199. A lone Republican—Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado—opposed the measure, as did all voting Democrats.

A fiscally conservative bill—at least by today’s trillion-dollar-budget standards—H.R. 4394 as written would cut the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account by $1.5 billion, rescind $5.58 billion in spending from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, and revoke $15 billion in loan authority from the DOE’s Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program.

Some nuclear numbers: H.R. 4394 provides $48.879 billion for the DOE, $133.2 million more than the FY 2023 enacted level and $3.693 billion less than the president’s request. Within that total, the Office of Nuclear Energy receives $1.783 billion, the same as the FY 2023 enacted level, for nuclear energy research, development, and demonstration activities.

Of particular interest to many in the nuclear community, the bill repurposes $3.6 billion from the DOE’s Civil Nuclear Credit Program for domestic uranium enrichment capabilities, including HALEU availability, and small modular reactor and advanced reactor demonstration projects.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy is allocated $470 million in the bill, equal to the FY 2023 level and $180 million less than the White House’s proposal.

On the nuclear security side, the legislation provides $23.959 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration, an increase of $1.797 billion from the FY 2023 level. Included in this funding are $19.114 billion for weapons activities, $1.946 billion for naval reactors, and $2.380 billion for defense nuclear nonproliferation. According to House Republicans, H.R. 4394 “fully funds all major stockpile modernization activities, including the W-93 warhead, and provides additional funding for plutonium pit production, the Uranium Processing Facility, and the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile program.”

Backers and bashers: During floor consideration of H.R. 4394 on October 25, both bill supporters and opponents made clear that bipartisanship was unlikely to be a theme of the discussion. “At a total of $56.958 billion, the energy and water bill advances our national security, our energy security, and our economic competitiveness in a fiscally responsible manner,” declared Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R., Tenn.), the bill’s original sponsor.

Less enamored with the numbers was House Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), who commented, “The majority has put forth a bill that cuts domestic energy investments by a staggering 25.4 percent, or $6.4 billion lower than last year—with the consequence of increasing energy costs for American families at a time when families are living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with the high cost of living. This bill undermines growth and modernization of our energy infrastructure, weakens our national security, and would yield leadership of the world’s energy future to our greatest adversaries.”

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