President Obama’s $26.4 billion Department of Energy (DOE) budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2010 substantially increases new cash for the development of renewable energies, energy efficiency, and for measures to curb carbon dioxide emissions, but it cuts funding to coal and nuclear programs—fuels that produce 70% of the nation’s electricity.

The proposed FY 2010 budget, which would take effect on October 1 if approved by Congress, complements $38.7 billion the DOE will invest as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week detailed the budget request, highlighting major funding changes from FY 2009. He stressed that while the budget makes important investments in energy independence and job creation, it also cuts back on programs that don’t work as well or are no longer needed.

Favoring Renewables

Among the major increases were to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Its budget of $2.3 billion—an increase of 6% over FY 2009—builds on the Recovery Act funding of $16.8 billion. Solar energy got the biggest boost, gaining $320 million, an 83% increase from FY 2009. Wind received $75 million (a 36% increase from FY 2009), geothermal got $50 million (14% increase), while biomass and biorefinery systems research and development gained $235 million (8% increase).

Fuel cell technologies, formerly known as hydrogen technologies, saw the largest drop, falling almost 60% from FY 2009 to $68 million in FY 2010. “Water power” also lost funding, dropping to $30 million, a 25% decrease from funds requested in 2009.

Funding Freeze on Fossil

The budget seeks $881.6 million for the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, cutting funds tagged for fossil fuel energy research and development ($617.6 million) by almost 30%. These funds would be supplemented by $3.4 billion—primarily designated for research and development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies—from the Recovery Act.

Coal research and development saw a 41% funding cut compared to FY 2009 (see comparison here). New money for natural gas technologies was increased almost 25%, to $25 million. A chunk of requested funds ($179.9 million) has been proposed for the office’s Carbon Sequestration program, while $55 million has been requested for the integrated gasification combined cycle program. The budget also requests $25 million for the development of gas hydrate production, of which the DOE said it would focus on “extended duration field tests … [in] Arctic regions,” because recent research had produced positive results.

Nuclear Power Cash Cuts

The DOE is requesting a total of $844 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy—an almost 40% funding cut from FY 2009. Among the notable inclusions in the request were $197 million for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management to “terminate the Yucca Mountain program while developing nuclear waste disposal alternatives.” The agency said that all funding for the project—including further land acquisition, transportation access, and additional engineering—would be eliminated.

The budget request includes the “minimal funding” needed to explore alternatives for nuclear waste disposal. That funding will support the Obama’s administration’s plans to convene a “blue-ribbon” panel of experts to evaluate alternative approaches to meet the “federal responsibility to manage and ultimately dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from both commercial and defense activities.” It adds that the panel will provide “recommendations that will form the basis for working with Congress to revise the statutory framework for managing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.”

Elsewhere in the budget, waste-related requests were made for research into nuclear fuel cycle options. Some $192 million would go to research and development and “provide a sound basis for any future decision on the US nuclear fuel cycle.”

The FY 2010 budget also seeks $20 million to close out the Nuclear Power 2010 program, a cost-shared, licensing demonstration program that supported activities with industry that focused on enabling an industry decision by 2010 to build a new nuclear plant.

Finally, the budget asks for $191 million to continue the development of Generation IV reactors, including activities to support solving underlying technology challenges related to fuels, materials, and neutronic and thermofluids modeling of the Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor, Molten Salt Reactor, Supercritical-Water-Cooled Reactor, Lead-Cooled Fast Reactor, Very High Temperature Reactor, and the Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor.

Source: DOE