September 2, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


As part of the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Energy Department announced $29 million in funding under the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) program for projects awarded to teams at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Utah. The funding will be for each team to fully instrument, characterize and permit candidate sites for an underground laboratory to conduct cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The Sandia team will be working on a site in Fallon, Nevada, and the University of Utah team will be working at a site in Milford, Utah.  

“Enhanced Geothermal Systems can help us tap into a vast energy resource with the potential to generate enough clean energy to power millions of homes,” said Franklin Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy. “In supporting this technology, the FORGE program is advancing American leadership in clean energy innovation and could ultimately help us meet our climate and sustainability goals.”

The Energy Department, with the support of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), awarded funding to these two teams after a competitive first phase of research to evaluate potential EGS underground research sites. The candidate sites in Nevada and Utah will use this new funding to prepare for the competitive third phase of the FORGE effort, which will designate one of the sites as the headquarters for the future underground field lab.

EGS have the potential to unlock access to domestic, geographically diverse and carbon-free sources of clean energy by using heat from the earth to generate renewable electricity in areas without naturally occurring geothermal resources. EGS are the means by which resources are accessed from deep beneath the surface of the earth where there are hot rocks ideal for geothermal wells but little naturally occurring liquid to generate steam. Pumping fluids into the hot rocks creates pathways that carry heat to the earth’s surface through wells where the fluids become steam to drive turbines and generate electricity. Investing in EGS technologies today could eventually lead to more than 100 gigawatts (GW) of economically viable electric generating capacity in the continental United States, representing an increase of two orders of magnitude over present geothermal capacity, which currently stands at 3.5 GW.

For further information, please visit


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is soliciting feedback on the Foundation’s next strategic plan, which will set its vision statement, core values, and strategic goals and objectives from 2018 to 2022.

NSF’s current strategic plan can be found at, while a shorter summary is available at The Foundation will develop the new strategic plan in 2017 and 2018, with an initial draft expected to be ready in May 2017, followed by a period of public comment.

NSF seeks input from individuals and organizations no later than September 27, 2016. Comments can be submitted through the NSF website at this link, and any questions can be addressed to

The development of the new strategic plan will be a joint effort of NSF and the National Science Board (NSB), in particular its Committee on Strategy and Budget. During advisory committee meetings this fall, NSF and NSB will engage with representatives from the research and education communities, industrial representatives, and organizational management experts to solicit their input into the plan. NSB and the Foundation will also seek input from Congress.

In the coming months, NSF will provide opportunities for all of the Foundation’s staff to participate in plan development, and much of the detailed drafting will involve the leadership of NSF’s six research directorates.


At a recent White House press briefing, the United States re-affirmed its support for joining the Paris Agreement on climate change this year. White House senior climate adviser Brian Deese said the following, “We have made the commitment that we will join in 2016 and we have made the commitment to do that as soon as possible this year. With respect to exactly when, I don’t have any announcements on that front.”

There were unconfirmed reports late last week that China and the United States plan to formally join the agreement before the beginning of the Group of 20 Summit being held Sept. 4-5 in Hangzhou, China. Deese did confirm that he was in China last week discussing climate issues and that the Paris Agreement is likely to be discussed during Obama’s visit. “I anticipate when the presidents meet, they will discuss topics that will include this issue of trying to get the Paris Agreement to enter into force as quickly as possible,” he said.

Spectators have long been waiting for such an announcement by China. During the April 22 signing ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York, the nation pledged to join the accord before the upcoming G20 summit. The U.N. will also host a special event on Sept. 21 in New York to give nations an opportunity to formally join the agreement.

Entry into force of the Paris Agreement, which develops a framework for nations to pursue domestically developed climate mitigation and adaptation actions, is a three-step process. Nearly 200 nations adopted the deal in December at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At U.N. headquarters in New York on April 22, 175 nations then signed the accord. Now those governments need to ratify the agreement.

The deal will enter into force 30 days after 55 nations representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession with the U.N. If the 55-55 requirement is met by December, the agreement would enter into force no later than January 2017 – Obama’s last month in office. At this point, 23 parties representing 1.08 percent of emissions have taken this step.

If the U.S. and China formally join, the ticker will sit at 25 nations representing 39.06 percent of global emissions. “We have now developed quite a significant record of working collaboratively with the Chinese on climate change and I anticipate that we will be able to once again demonstrate our two countries working together on this issue when the presidents meet in China,” Deese said.


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is working to move forward studies of licensing requirements for advanced nuclear reactors, aiming towards the development of a licensing program for new reactor concepts over the next several years. Congress is currently considering several bills that authorize funding for a licensing program, but no final framework has been agreed upon, leaving the NRC to operate under its existing vision and strategy for the development of a licensing process for new reactor technologies.

All commercial nuclear reactors operating in the United States are light-water reactors (LWRs), most being commissioned between 1970 and 1990. Much of the NRC’s work on licensing commercial reactors has been geared overwhelmingly toward overseeing and renewing existing licenses, and toward processing license applications for the handful of new LWR units currently under construction in the U.S.

Reactor designers are developing a number of advanced non-LWR and light-water small modular reactor (SMR) designs employing innovative solutions to technical nuclear power issues. These designs could be used for generating electricity in isolated areas or producing high-temperature process heat for industrial purposes. To license such reactors, the NRC will have to invest in the expertise required to develop licensing requirements and procedures appropriate to a variety of new nuclear technologies.

Most recently, the NRC released a draft Vision and Strategy document on non-LWR designs, available here For more information on NRC’s work on SMR’s and non-LWRs, visit:


The U.S. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory can help the federal government identify opportunities for energy and cost savings that can result in both environmental and financial benefits. Recently, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced they will require large- and medium-sized Alliant2 contractors on the government IT contract list to inventory and publicly disclose their GHG emission annually, and set targets for reducing those emissions. It is estimated that this new regulation will take contactors 80 hours to complete, and only 40% of current Alliant2 contractors are measuring and reporting their GHG emissions.

Reducing GHG emissions has become standard practice for many industries. This new regulation is keeping pace with what is being done in industry and allows the federal government to better understand what their contractors are doing to support reduced emissions. These efforts are intended to not only reduce emissions, but also to save suppliers, and therefore the federal government, money with an expected savings of $1 billion.

For more information, please visit:

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036