June 10, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:

New RAND Study Released: Technological Lessons from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident

RAND recently released a study entitled, “Technological Lessons from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident.”   Following the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that afflicted Japan in March 2011, some of the reactors of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant began to release radioactive material into the environment. This study draws lessons from this experience regarding technological countermeasures to radioactive contamination to improve responses to future radiological or nuclear contingencies. Specifically, it focuses on how technologies were used to measure contamination over space and time, to limit the dispersal of radioactive material in the environment, to decontaminate areas or items, and to store radioactive materials for extended periods. The authors gathered data by conducting extensive literature reviews and dozens of interviews with experts in both Japan and the United States. The report analyzes how technologies were used successfully and identifies capability gaps that could be redressed through novel technologies or improved use of existing technologies.

Key findings of the report focus on the following:

  • Characterizing the Extent of Contamination
  • Preventing Radiation Damage and Further Dispersion of Material
  • Decontamination and Collection of Radioactive Material
  • Disposing of Contaminated Material
  • Robotics Issues
  • Lessons from the Chernobyl Experience

The report is available at: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR857.html


A federal appeals court recently rejected a plea from four liberal states to overturn a regulation allowing long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel at power plants. The District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) followed all relevant laws and standards when it wrote its 2014 regulation and an associated environmental impact statement.

The rule concluded that spent fuel rods can be stored safely at nuclear power plants indefinitely, which may be necessary if the United States never builds the long-delayed Yucca Mountain waste repository.  “Because we hold that the NRC did not engage in arbitrary or capricious decision-making, we deny the petitions for review,” a three-judge panel of the court wrote in its decision.

The ruling means that NRC can continue to give nuclear plants, both active and inactive, permission to store their spent fuel rods on-site for as long as they need to do so. The attorneys general of New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut filed the lawsuit shortly after the NRC voted to make its regulation and environmental impact statement final.

The same court overturned the nuclear agency's previous spent fuel storage regulation in 2012, ruling that the NRC did not properly consider the safety of storage over the long term, like leaks in storage pools or fires. That case, brought by a similar group to the more recent one, prompted the agency to redo its regulation.  But the NRC’s second attempt at resolving the problem appears to have worked.

“We acknowledge the political discord surrounding our nation’s evolving nuclear energy policy. But the role of Article III courts in this debate is circumscribed,” the judges wrote.  “To the extent that the petitioners disagree with the NRC’s current policy for the continued storage of spent nuclear fuel, their concerns should be directed to Congress.”


The US Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced $22 million to support research, development, and demonstration of innovative plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) and direct injection propane engine technologies, as well as community-based projects to accelerate the adoption of light, medium, and heavy duty vehicles that operate on fuels such as biodiesel, electricity, E85, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy seeks cost-shared projects across three areas of sustainable transportation technologies. A new "plug-in electric drive vehicle program" focuses on research, development, and demonstration of medium and heavy duty PEVs, from class 3 to 7, including vehicles that can use their onboard energy storage to provide power to electrical loads external to the vehicle.

DOE also seeks cost-shared projects for the research, development, and demonstration of direct injection propane engines for on-highway vehicles that could result in substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Lastly, as part of this funding opportunity, DOE seeks highly leveraged Alternative Fuel Vehicle Community Partner Projects that will significantly accelerate the use of light, medium, and heavy duty vehicles that operate on fuels such as biodiesel, electricity, E85, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane as well as the fueling infrastructure needed to support them.

Additional information is available at https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/#FoaIde2b9de5a-fedd-4fea-8a56-02d9c5d5d914


Hosted by U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the inaugural Mission Innovation Ministerial (MIM) recently took place in conjunction with the seventh Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7) in San Francisco, bringing together countries that have committed to increasing their support for clean energy research and development, and providing an opportunity for individual countries to highlight plans and actions under the Mission Innovation partnership (MI) and announce new collaborations.

The European Commission (EC), on behalf of the European Union (EU), became the latest member to join MI, bringing the total number of members to 21. MI members discussed baselines and doubling plans for investment in clean energy R&D, agreeing to collectively double the US$15 billion baseline to US$30 billion per year over the next five years.

In addition, Secretary Moniz and fellow ministers announced new campaigns in three high-impact areas:

  • Advanced Cooling Challenge: The new Advanced Cooling (AC) Campaign challenges governments and industry to develop and deploy at scale super-efficient, smart, climate friendly and affordable cooling technologies critical for prosperous and healthy societies furthering the goals of the Montreal Protocol. The U.S. government is partnering with the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, and other governments and international organizations to conduct critical research to support the acceleration of updated safety standards to allow widespread use of these climate-friendly refrigerants in the United States and internationally. In support of this effort, DOE is contributing $3 million in funding, AHRI is contributing $1 million, and ASHRAE is contributing $1.2 million.
  • Energy Management Campaign: The new Energy Management Campaign aims to secure 50,001 global certifications to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 50001 by 2020. ISO 50001, the global energy management system standard, has a proven framework of requirements to transform the way organizations manage energy and meet sustainable energy goals. A total of 15 CEM members are joining the campaign in a clear show of international support. 
  • Corporate Sourcing of Renewables Campaign:  The new Corporate Sourcing of Renewables Campaign focuses on driving additional deployment of renewables across the range of CEM member countries. CEM members and partners joining the CEM campaign will work to significantly increase the number of companies powering operations with renewable energy and deploy supportive policies and resources that can help facilitate additional corporate sourcing of renewables.

For more information about the campaigns, please visit: http://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-secretary-moniz-hosts-gathering-world-s-energy-ministers-san-francisco-advance

More in-depth information is available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/02/fact-sheet-us-hosts-worlds-energy-ministers-scale-clean-energy-and-drive


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) also released Federal Financing Programs for Clean Energy, a resource guide to U.S. government programs that supports the development of clean energy projects in the U.S. and abroad.  Featuring more than thirty programs from ten agencies, the guide includes summaries and case studies of programs that can benefit private sector partners in finding capital for clean energy projects.  Now in its third edition, the guide includes financing programs for both domestic and international projects.  For every program listed, the guide identifies contact information to answer questions and provide additional direction.  The guide includes programs from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, State, Transportation and Treasury, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Small Business Administration.

The guide is available at: http://www.energy.gov/downloads/federal-financing-programs-clean-energy

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