In this issue:

 

 

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE QUESTIONS DOE SECRETARY ON ADMINISTRATION'S YUCCA MOUNTAIN DECISION
Before lawmakers left Washington, D.C. to return their districts for the Spring district work period, the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee held a hearing on the Department of Energy's fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request.  DOE Secretary Steven Chu was the Subcommittee's sole witness for the hearing.

At the hearing, lawmakers voiced their concern about the cancellation of the Yucca mountain repository program for spent nuclear fuel, as they have done before at previous hearings.  Subcommittee Chairman Ed Pastor (D-AZ) spoke of his concern regarding the amount of resources already expended to develop Yucca Mountain, while Ranking Member Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) openly questioned whether the DOE possessed the legal authority to propose such a closure in the Nuclear Waste Management Act of 1982.  As expected, Secretary Chu was polite, but held his ground.  He responded to Ranking Member Frelinghuysen's question by saying that DOE counsel had informed him that they did indeed possess that authority and that a new proposal would be forthcoming.

In addition, Subcommittee members continued to express skepticism related to the "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future," which is being lead by former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, but not expected to make any final recommendations until 2012.

As much as Secretary Chu wanted to highlight other programs in the Department's budget during the hearing, lawmakers showed little interest in these items, and focused most of their questioning on the Administration's wish to close Yucca Mountain.  It should also be noted that President Obama recently announced $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to build three new reactors in Georgia earlier this year, and that the FY 2011 budget requests a tripling in loan guarantee authorizations for nuclear energy from $18.5 billion to $54 billion.

On March 19th, the Energy Committee of ASME's Technical Communities submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee on the Fiscal Year 2011 (FY 2011) Department of Energy (DOE) budget request.  The Energy Committee is comprised of over 30 members from 17 ASME Divisions, representing approximately 40,000 ASME members.   Although the ASME Energy Committee was pleased overall with the President's FY 2011 budget request for DOE, the Committee did raise some concerns in the statement regarding the looming U.S. workforce shortage and the failure to fund the REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge (RE-ENERGYSE) program in FY 2010, which the Committee felt could have a damaging effect upon the DOE's ability to retain workers who may be lured to work in the private sector or drawn away from engineering altogether.  The Energy Committee also disapproved of the decision to close the Yucca Mountain repository site, something that the Committee felt "would only extend and increase the final cost (of depositing nuclear spent fuel)."    To review the full ASME Energy Committee position statement on DOE's FY 2011 budget, please visit: /getmedia/CEDDFEF7-1616-47D9-8387-4D6DEF8E0B2B/PS1009.aspx

For general information about the DOE FY 2011 budget, please visit: http://www.energy.gov/about/budget.htm

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at rainsr@asme.org.

 

 

NIST DIRECTOR GALLAGHER TO CO-CHAIR WHITE HOUSE STANDARDS COMMITTEE
Whether it is to promote the development of a nationwide "Smart Grid" for electricity, optimize cyber security in federal information technology systems, or develop an effective and interoperable health IT system, technical standards play a major role, and federal agencies must work effectively with private-sector partners to ensure these efforts succeed. Toward these ends, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Patrick Gallagher and Department of Justice Deputy Assistant Attorney General Philip Weiser will co-chair a new Subcommittee on Standards that has been established at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Part of the OSTP National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology, this interagency group will provide high-level leadership, so federal agencies are strategically focused and actively engaged on critical standards-related issues. In turn, the improved coordination is intended to ensure that agencies can work in a responsive and timely fashion with the private sector, so that effective standards are developed and put into practice to meet national needs. The group will reinforce the ability of the federal government to work in partnership with the private sector to address the standards needed to solve national problems.

This subcommittee will also work closely with the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy (ICSP). The Subcommittee on Standards will provide direction and guidance to the ICSP, and will rely on the ICSP to coordinate interagency implementation of standards policy, assess progress, and develop potential policy options or guidance with the goal of removing barriers to effective standards development or use.

For more information about this subcommittee, please review the following recent blog post by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra: www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/24/providing-leadership-standards-address-national-challenges

Additional information about the two co-chairs can be found at: http://www.nist.gov/director/bios/gallagher.html and http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/press_releases/2009/245092.htm respectively.

Robert Rains handles public policy-related standards issues for ASME. He can be reached at rainsr@asme.org.

 

 

ASME CENTER CO-SPONSORS 2010 "DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION FUELS INNOVATION IN STEM" CAPITOL HILL DAY
On March 24-25, 2010, the ASME Center for Leadership and Diversity (CLD) co-sponsored the 2010 "Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Capitol Hill Day.  Organized by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), this is the first Capitol Hill Day event to be solely focused on issues related to diversity and STEM.

The 2010 Capitol Hill Day events consisted of training for participants and a Capitol Hill reception on March 24th, followed by a Capitol Hill breakfast and Congressional visits on March 25th.  Speakers at the training who provided attendees with insight into current policy issues related to diversity in STEM included: Jacqueline Michaels from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights; Dr. Kelly Mack, Program Director for ADVANCE at the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Arundhati Jayarao, Congressional Fellow in Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) office.

The March 24th reception featured remarks from Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), who will be retiring after this term of office and who has been a longtime champion of the need to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in all of America's schools.  Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) also provided remarks at the event, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. was in attendance.

On March 25th, Dr. John Veysey, Senior Legislative Assistant from Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)'s office, served as the breakfast keynote speaker.  A Ph.D. by training, Dr. Veysey provided attendees with some tips on how to talk to Congressional staff, and more insight into the workings of a Congressional office.  After the breakfast, Congressional visits were scheduled for attendees with their Congressional representatives.

Sixteen other STEM and diversity organizations also co-sponsored the event, including: American Association of University Women; AIChE - Women's Initiative Committee, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, American Nuclear Society, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society for Engineering Education, Association for Women in Science, IEEE-USA, MentorNet, National Center for Women and Information Technology, National GEM Consortium, National Society of Professional Engineers, SAE International, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and Women in Engineering Pro-Active Network.

For more information about this event, please contact Melissa Carl, ASME staff, at carlm@asme.org.  Melissa handles public policy-related STEM workforce issues for ASME.

 

 

NASA EXTENDS SOYUZ CONTRACT AS ALTERNATIVE PLANS EMERGE NASA
announced this week that it has signed a $335 million extension to its current contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation, rescue and related services in support of the International Space Station through 2014.  The contract covers round-trip transportation and training for six crew members, as well as limited cargo transport.  While the price for Soyuz transport has gone up to almost $56 million per seat ($5 million more than the $51 million NASA paid per seat in a similar deal negotiated in 2009), NASA officials emphasized that Soyuz transport is a much more affordable approach than continuing the U.S. space shuttle program with its price tag of more than $2.5 billion per year.

NASA plans for human exploration to continue to be a hot topic for discussion in Congress in anticipation of next week's 'Space Summit' at the Kennedy Space Center on April 15th.  While space exploration advocates in Congress have already proposed several alternatives to the Administration's plans for revamping a range of NASA space exploration and technology development programs in the fiscal year 2011 budget, several items have emerged as priorities for discussion at the Space Summit. These include stretching out the US space shuttle program and closing the gap between NASA's crew transportation needs and transportation capacity. While NASA advocates in Congress are pressing for a 'government owned' cargo and crew transports program in the near term, there also appears to be support for developing new, robust commercial space development programs, as outlined in the Administration's budget proposal.

Next week's Presidential Space Summit will give NASA and the Administration a chance to discuss and explain their plans for NASA as an agency in transition.  While few details have emerged about the specific agenda for the summit, a number of Congressional officials are expected to be on hand to discuss their concerns about NASA's future and their views on how Congress might proceed with the Administration's proposal.

To view NASA's press release regarding extension of the Soyuz contract, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/apr/HQ_C10-023_Soyuz_Extension.html

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related NASA issues for ASME.  He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org

 

 

DOE NAMES ANTHONY CUGINI TO LEAD NETL
Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu has named Anthony V. Cugini as the new director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). NETL is operated by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy (FE). Its primary mission is to develop new technologies and approaches that will ensure the safe, clean, and affordable use of U.S. fossil energy resources through the 21st century, including: carbon capture and storage (CCS); advanced generation technology for both new and existing coal-based power plants; and, advanced research on novel concepts.

In announcing the appointment, Secretary Chu said Cugini's background provides "an excellent combination of leadership abilities, scientific and research expertise, understanding of key technical challenges in clean energy, and familiarity with NETL's programs, personnel, and capabilities. I look forward to the lab's continued progress and success under his leadership as we move forward."

Cugini, who has been with NETL since 1987, created and directed the lab's Computational and Basic Sciences Focus Area from 2001-2007; served as division director of the Fuels and Process Chemistry Division from 1999-2001; and, served as a research chemical engineer with DOE's Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center, a predecessor of NETL, from 1987-1999.  Previous to joining the lab, he worked at Gulf Oil Corp. and Procter and Gamble.  He has B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

For additional information, refer to: http://fossil.energy.gov/news/techlines/2010/10011-Cugini_Named_Director_of_NETL.html

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at rainsr@asme.org.

 

 

NASA INVITES EDUCATORS TO WEBCASTS SUPPORTING NATIONAL LAB DAY
In preparation for National Lab Day on May 12th, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will host a series of weekly live webcasts during the month of April through the agency's Digital Learning Network. The series is aimed at equipping teachers to promote hands-on science education in their classrooms.

Although many activities are focused on May 12th, National Lab Day (NLD) is a nationwide initiative that gets volunteers, university students, scientists and engineers to work together with educators to bring discovery-based science experiments to students in kindergarten through 12th grades.  The ASME Center for Public Awareness has been supportive of NLD and the President's "Educate to Innovate" campaign since its inception.

"The professional development of educators in the area of science, technology, engineering and math is a critical component in getting students interested in these fields early in their schooling," said Caryn Long, manager of the Digital Learning Network at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

Some of NASA's National Lab Day webcasts, each of which is scheduled for 4 PM to 5 PM EDT, feature the following topics:

  • Electricity and Magnetism, on April 15th.
  • Global Warming, on April 22nd.
  • and The Moon, on April 29th.

NASA's Digital Learning Network provides distance-learning events designed to educate through demonstrations and real time interactions with NASA experts.  For more information about the Digital Learning Network and to watch the live webcasts, go to http://dln.nasa.gov/dln. For more information on NASA's education activities, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education.

For general information about National Lab Day, please visit: http://www.nationallabday.org.

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related STEM workforce issues for ASME.  She can be reached at: carlm@asme.org

 

THE ARTICLES CONTAINED IN CAPITOL UPDATE ARE NOT POSITIONS OF ASME OR ANY OF ITS SUB-ENTITIES, UNLESS SPECIFICALLY NOTED AS SUCH. THIS PUBLICATION IS DESIGNED TO INFORM ASME MEMBERS ABOUT ISSUES OF CONCERN BEING DEBATED AND DISCUSSED IN THE HALLS OF CONGRESS, IN THE STATES, AND IN THE FEDERAL AGENCIES.

EDITOR: Mary James Legatski, ASME Government Relations, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 906, Washington, DC 20036-5104.