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Energy Department Slow to Take On New Tech

While industry seeks to move forward with nuclear technology, the Energy Department has been reluctant to embrace what it sees as another potential boondoggle.

Some lawmakers, though, such as California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, criticize the department for spending billions to reduce the cost of wind, solar, hydropower and alternative fuels while shortchanging nuclear technology.

“What we’ve got is not a bridge to tomorrow but a protection of the status quo,” Rohrabacher said.

In the administration’s proposed 2016 budget, the department is asking for $74.9 million for small-modular and advanced reactors, 24 percent less than the current appropriations level.

Peter Lyons, assistant Energy secretary for nuclear energy and a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, referred to the words of naval reactor pioneer Hyman Rickover in addressing a House committee in December.

Rickover, he said, “noted the challenges in bringing a new reactor design online are substantial and are hard to fully anticipate as the project has planned.”

“We have in this country, we have in the world tremendous expertise on light water reactors and I don’t question that there will be, I hope a time in the future when we do move towards advanced reactors,” Lyons said. “Light water reactors for the foreseeable future will be a bridge between the industry of today and an industry of tomorrow that will be able to handle and utilize the advanced reactors.”

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