February 5, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


Leading developers and potential customers of small modular reactors (SMR) have formed a consortium to advance the commercialization of the innovative reactor designs. The memorandum of understanding establishes an organization called SMR Start.

The organization is designed to help accelerate the commercialization of SMRs by creating an industry-driven entity whereby potential reactor owners/operators would be a unified voice in a variety of policy and regulatory issues and in creating cost-share funding structures.

The Energy Information Administration forecasts an 18 percent growth in electricity demand by 2040. In light of this forecast and nuclear plant retirements, the U.S. market will need more than 100 new nuclear plants by mid-century to maintain the benefits of a diverse electricity portfolio. Nuclear power plants supply around one-fifth of America’s electricity and nearly 63 percent of its carbon-free electricity.

Initial SMR Start members include: BWX Technologies Inc., Duke Energy, Energy Northwest, Holtec, NuScale, PSEG Nuclear, Southern Co., SCANA and Tennessee Valley Authority. The organization will represent these companies in interactions with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Congress and the executive branch on small reactor issues.

The Nuclear Energy Institute is assisting in the formation of SMR Start and will work closely with the organization on policies and priorities relating to small reactor technology. SMR Start will focus on light-water reactor-based SMR designs and will serve as a demonstration to the public and private sectors of small reactor customers’ commitment to the market.

Additional information is available at http://www.nei.org/News-Media/News


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has opened a competition to award new cooperative funding agreements for its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in 12 states and Puerto Rico. The competition continues a multi-year effort to update the program’s funding structure to better match manufacturing industry needs with resources in MEP's nationwide network. The MEP centers help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits and save time and money.

The current competition will fund awards for centers in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Utah, and Vermont. The awards provide half of each center’s first-year operating funds, which the centers must match with funding from nonfederal sources. MEP anticipates awarding a total of nearly $39 million for up to 13 centers in these locations.

Established in 1988, each MEP center works directly with area manufacturers to provide expertise and services tailored to their most critical needs, ranging from process improvement and workforce development to business practices and technology transfer. Through local and national resources, MEP centers have helped thousands of manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

MEP will host a webinar for interested parties approximately 15-30 business days from the release of the Federal Funding Opportunity. Full details on the competition and award process can be found in the Federal Register Notice at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/


U.S. expenditures in research and development (R&D) rose to $456.1 billion in 2013 -- a $20.7 billion increase over the previous year, according to a report from the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

The R&D system in the U.S. includes multiple performers, including businesses, the federal government, non-federal government, universities and colleges, and other nonprofit organizations. Organizations that perform R&D often receive significant levels of outside funding.

The business sector continues to be the largest performer of R&D in the U.S., accounting for $322.5 billion, or 71 percent, of total national expenditures. That figure represents a $20.3 billion increase over the previous year. The business sector's predominance is a longstanding trend; from 1993 to 2013, its annual share ranged from 68 percent to 74 percent.

Universities and colleges accounted for the second-highest performance in 2013, with $64.7 billion, or 14 percent, of total U.S. R&D expenditures. The education sector has a special niche in the nation’s R&D system: universities and colleges performed 51 percent of the nation’s basic research in 2013.

The federal government conducted $49.9 billion, or 11 percent of the country’s R&D in 2013, including $33 billion performed by agencies in their own facilities and $16.8 billion by 40 federally funded research and development centers. While federal R&D saw yearly increases of between $1 billion and $2 billion from 2008 to 2011, its 2013 total was a $1.5 billion decrease from the previous year.

Other nonprofits performed an estimated $18.6 billion in R&D in 2013, 4 percent of total U.S. expenditures.

Most of the U.S. total for R&D in 2013 -- $285 billion, or 63 percent -- went toward development. Basic research activities accounted for $80.5 billion, or 18 percent, of total expenditures. Applied research accounted for $90.6 billion, or 20 percent.

Read the report at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2015/nsf15330/


The United States could slash greenhouse gas emissions from power production by up to 78 percent below 1990 levels within 15 years while meeting increased demand, according to a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and University of Colorado Boulder researchers.

The study used a sophisticated mathematical model to evaluate future cost, demand, generation and transmission scenarios. It found that with improvements in transmission infrastructure, weather-driven renewable resources could supply most of the nation’s electricity at costs similar to today’s.

Although improvements in wind and solar generation have continued to ratchet down the cost of producing renewable energy, these energy resources are inherently intermittent. As a result, utilities have invested in surplus generation capacity to back up renewable energy generation with natural gas-fired generators and other reserves.

The model allowed researchers to evaluate the affordability, reliability, and greenhouse gas emissions of various energy mixes, including coal. It showed that low-cost and low-emissions are not mutually exclusive.

Even in a scenario where renewable energy costs more than experts predict, the model produced a system that cuts CO2 emissions 33 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and delivered electricity at about 8.6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). By comparison, electricity cost 9.4 cents per kWh in 2012.

The paper was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change at: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2921.html


On January 30th, the White House announced a new initiative, CS for All, which aims to give all students in the U.S. the opportunity to learn computer science (CS). The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education will serve as the lead federal agencies.

Computer science is becoming more essential for individuals to excel in an increasingly computational and data-intensive world. However, access to computer science (CS) at the K-12 levels remains limited. Less than 25 percent of U.S. high schools teach computer science with rural and high-need schools less likely to offer it. Furthermore, in schools that do offer CS, students of color and girls often participate in very low numbers.
As part of the CS for All initiative:

  • NSF is committing $120 million over five years to accelerate its efforts to enable rigorous and engaging CS education in schools across the nation. These funds will support the development of prototypes of instructional materials, assessments, scalable and sustainable professional development models, and teacher resources, along with research to study their effectiveness. The acceleration of these efforts could enable as many as 9,000 additional high-school teachers to be well prepared to teach CS over the next five years.
  • NSF and the Department of Education will co-fund an effort to prototype professional development for Career and Technical Education (CTE) educators who teach computer science. Using and testing a cascade model, this effort will create a first cohort of educators who will provide additional CTE computer science professional development across the country.

Additional information about NSF's computer science education efforts and the CS for All initiative can be found at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/stem-workforce-development/
The White House blog is also available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/30/computer-science-all

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

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Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations