Alexander: Energy and Water Appropriations Bill First to Pass Senate, Works to Double Energy Research, Helps End 25-Year-Old Nuclear Waste Stalemate

Says the bill sets priorities by properly funding infrastructure and basic research, reducing wasteful spending, and protecting national security

Posted on May 12, 2016

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today the Republican majority in the Senate has proven the appropriations process can work after the body passed the fiscal year 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. Alexander was the primary author of the bill and led it through committee and floor passage.

“This legislation brings us one step closer to doubling basic energy research at the Office of Science, fully funds projects that are supported by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and takes an important step toward solving the 25-year-old nuclear waste stalemate. This appropriations bill is consistent with the spending limits Congress set last year, sets priorities that advance our nation’s goals, and eliminates wasteful spending. We did exactly what the Republican Senate majority was elected to do and we were mindful of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Alexander said.

Alexander leads the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee and co-authored the bill with Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

Alexander said the bill also provides needed oversight to keep large government projects, such as the Uranium Processing Facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on time and on budget. The bill also supports programs to clean up Cold War-era nuclear facilities.

While the bill supports priorities such as energy research, the bill also saves $125 million by eliminating funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project in France. Funding for the ITER project was instead used for higher priority projects within the Office of Science.

The fiscal year 2017 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill passed the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8. The House version of the bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on April 19 and must now be considered by the House of Representatives.

The Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill includes the following priorities that are important to Tennessee:

  • The U.S Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which supports basic energy research and is the nation’s largest supporter of research in the physical sciences, is funded at $5.4 billion, a record funding level in a regular appropriations bill.
  • The bill restores $1.4 billion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that President Obama proposed to cut in his budget, bringing the Corps budget up to $6 billion – also a record funding level in a regular appropriations bill. The bill makes full use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues for water infrastructure projects, including up to $37 million to continue construction of Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga.
  • The Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex is funded at $575 million, which will continue to keep this project on time and on budget. The project is expected to be completed in 2025 at a cost no greater than $6.5 billion.
  • The legislation sends a strong signal about our support for developing new technologies that will support the next generation of nuclear power plants. The bill includes $94.5 million for Advanced Reactors, which is $21 million more than the president’s budget request. The bill also provides $95 million for Small Modular Reactors, which is a $32.5 million increase over last year.
  • The bill advances efforts to clean up hazardous materials at Cold War-era sites. The legislation provides $5.4 billion to support defense cleanup efforts, which is $144 million above the president’s budget request.
  • $1.32 billion is provided for advanced computing, including funding from both the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration. The Office of Science’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program, which supports the new Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is funded at $656.2 million. “Once again, the world’s fastest supercomputer will be at Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” Alexander said.  
  • This bill also supports the Department of Energy’s continued efforts to advance “exascale” computing and provides $285 million to develop the next generation of computers.
  • The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is funded at $325 million. ARPA-E was created by the 2007 America COMPETES Act to invest in high-impact energy technologies. Sen. Alexander supported an amendment to increase funding for this program which was adopted by a vote of 70 to 26 when the bill was considered by the full Senate.
  • The legislation includes a pilot program to allow consolidated nuclear waste storage, supported by Alexander and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the subcommittee’s ranking member. The bill has included the pilot program for the last three years. The bill also provides funding for the Department of Energy to store nuclear waste at private facilities, such as the one proposed in West Texas.
  • The legislation provides $2.1 million for dredging at Memphis Harbor McKellar Lake.
  • The bill includes $1.34 billion to continue the four ongoing nuclear weapons life extension programs, which fix or replace components in weapons systems to make sure they're safe and reliable.

# # #

For access to this release and the senator’s other statements, click here.

To stay up-to-date on the senator’s latest actions, follow him on Twitter and YouTube.