The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released its Fiscal Year 2020 Congressional Budget request of $31.7 billion­­.

That includes $824 million for nuclear energy research and development. The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is working to revitalize the nuclear energy sector by addressing three main priorities:

  • Expand the lifespan of the nation’s existing fleet;
  • Develop a new pipeline of advanced nuclear reactors;
  • Strengthen the nation’s fuel cycle infrastructure.

Here are five things you should know about NE’s budget request.

1. Nuclear continues to be a priority

The Trump Administration is continuing its comprehensive review of the nation’s nuclear energy policy in an effort to revive, revitalize, and expand the nation’s nuclear sector.

As part of that process, President Donald Trump signed two nuclear bills into law to help streamline the regulatory process and eliminate some of the financial and technological barriers standing in the way of nuclear innovation.

Nuclear currently provides about 20% of the country’s power and more than half of its carbon-free electricity—the most of any clean energy source. It supports roughly half a million American jobs and brings critical resiliency and reliability attributes to the electric grid.

2. The budget request is up nearly 8% from the FY19 request

NE’s total request of $824 million is up nearly 8% over the FY19 request ($757 million). According to the FY20 request, these funds will support nuclear energy research and development (R&D) efforts.

3. The Advanced Versatile Test Reactor

Graphic of a fast test PRISM reactor
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is working with Idaho National Laboratory on the Versatile Test Reactor concept design that is based off of its PRISM reactor.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

NE is dedicating $100 million to continue researching design options for an advanced versatile test reactor (VTR). These designs will focus on user requirements for the advanced reactor community, specifically in the areas of testing fuels, materials and coolants in a prototypical environment.

This capability doesn’t exist in the United States and is needed to test new reactor materials and fuels for use in advanced reactors.

4. U.S. to domestically produce enriched uranium fuel

NE will use $40 million to domestically produce high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) to support the development of advanced reactors.

By definition, HALEU is enriched between 5% and 20% and is required for most U.S. advanced reactors to achieve smaller designs that get more power per unit of volume. This allows for longer life cores, increased efficiencies and a higher burnup of nuclear waste.

The HALEU produced will be used to support the anticipated fuel qualification requirements for new advanced reactor designs.

5. Resumption of regulatory activities required for the Yucca Mountain licensing process

In addition to the $824 million request, the Trump Administration is also asking for $116 million for DOE to restart its application process with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Yucca Mountain repository site and to initiate a robust interim storage program.

Read the full DOE budget request.