Nukewatch Quarterly Spring 2015
AIKEN, South Carolina—Operators of the US Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS) improperly diverted $750,000 in taxpayer funds—budgeted for clean-up of the site’s extensively contaminated nuclear weapons production facilities—to small modular reactor research in 2012. The federal Office of Management and Budget learned of the shift later the same year and ordered SRS to stop misusing the funds. However, the mismanagement of taxpayer dollars did not become public until this January, after the watchdog group SRS Watch discovered it through a federal open records request.
SRS officials did not respond to questions from reporters on whether the money was ever restored to the cleanup budget—which many argue is already inadequate. In recent years, interest in the still-unproven small modular reactor technology has waned despite other, more straightforward government subsidies. Even Babcock & Wilcox which was awarded a $150 million government grant in 2012 to pursue the technology has significantly scaled back the investment of its own funds in “cookie cutter” reactors.
However, the Washington State Senate does not seem to have gotten this memo. Among the bills proposed there by Republican State Senator Sharon Brown in February are those that would provide a sales tax exemption for small-scale reactor production, require the state’s Commerce Department to support market development for small reactors, and modify the state’s renewable energy definition to include electricity from small nuclear reactors.
—The State (South Carolina), Jan. 7; Augusta Chronicle, Jan. 11; AP, Feb. 24, 2015.
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