In this issue:

 

 

NRC TO ISSUE ORDERS, INFORMATION REQUEST AS PART OF IMPLEMENTING FUKUSHIMA-RELATED RECOMMENDATIONS

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on March 9th authorized its staff to issue immediately effective orders to U.S. commercial nuclear reactors beginning the implementation of several recommendations for enhancing safety at U.S. reactors based on lessons learned from the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Two of the orders apply to every U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, including those under construction and the recently licensed new Vogtle reactors. The first Order requires the plants to better protect safety equipment installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to obtain sufficient equipment to support all reactors at a given site simultaneously. The second order requires the plants to install enhanced equipment for monitoring water levels in each plant’s spent fuel pool.

The third order applies only to U.S. boiling-water reactors that have “Mark I” or “Mark II” containment structures. These reactors must improve venting systems (or for the Mark II plants, install new systems) that help prevent or mitigate core damage in the event of a serious accident. Plants have until December 31, 2016, to complete modifications and requirements of all three orders.

The NRC will also issue a detailed information request to every operating U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, and certain parts will apply to reactors currently under construction or recently licensed. The request covers several topics, including:

  • Re-analyzing earthquake and flooding risks using the latest available information;
  • Conducting earthquake and flooding hazard “walkdowns,” where skilled engineers closely examine a plant’s ability to meet current requirements;
  • Assessing the ability of a plant’s current communications systems and equipment to perform under conditions of onsite and offsite damage and prolonged loss of all alternating current (ac) electrical power; and,
  • Assessing plant staffing levels needed to fill emergency positions in response to events simultaneously affecting all reactors at a given site.

Also this week, all five Commissioners on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to discuss the one year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor accident and steps that are being taken by the NRC to enhance U.S. nuclear safety.  After a very public spat between NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko and the four other NRC Commissioners erupted late last year, leading to the four other NRC Commissioners authoring a letter to the White House alleging that Chairman Jaczko had created a hostile work environment, there appeared to be some thawing of tension among the NRC Commissioners during the hearing. 

To learn more about the EPW hearing on Fukushima please click here http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=f48f6ea9-802a-23ad-4bfe-0003b454f993

The Orders and the information request will be available on the NRC’s website:
http://www.nrc.gov/japan/japan-info.html

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

 

 

DOE CHIEF CHU TESTIFIES BEFORE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS

With gas prices shifting upward and into the forefront of the minds of many Americans, Energy Secretary Steven Chu stepped before the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee last week in order to answer questions regarding the President’s FY 2013 budget for the Department of Energy (DOE).  Under the request, the DOE budget would rise by 3.2 percent to $27.2 billion for FY 2013. 

Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked multiple questions about the DOE Office of Science budget, expressing some concerns about the present, and future for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).  ITER was a project inherited by Secretary Chu from the Bush Administration, and the FY 2013 budget seeks to meet the ITER obligation by reducing domestic fusion projects. 

Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) effusively praised several DOE programs; including the Innovation Hubs, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, but also asked the Secretary about the support for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) within the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy.  SMRs received about $100 million in FY 2012, but the FY 2013 request is for $65 million.  The DOE has committed to help fund a 5-year and $452 million program for SMR reactor concepts.  Sen. Alexander also pressed Secretary Chu about ending subsidies for wind energy in favor of investing in more research programs; such as the ones he specifically mentioned. 

Some highlights from the FY 2013 DOE budget include:

  • $5 billion for the DOE Office of Science, a $118 million, or 2.4 percent increase over the FY 2012 appropriated amount of $4.8 billion;
  • $2.3 billion for DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, a $527 million, or 29 percent increase over the FY 2012 appropriated amount of $1.8 billion;
  • $770 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy, an $88 million, or 10.3 percent decrease from the FY 2012 appropriated amount of $858 million;
  • $650 million for the Office of Fossil Energy research and development, an increase of $86.3 million, or 15.3 percent over the FY 2012 appropriated amount of $564 million; and
  • $120 million to support the Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), an increase of $20 million, or 20 percent over the FY 2012 appropriated amount of $100 million.   

The hearing was webcast and can be viewed here http://appropriations.senate.gov/sc-energy.cfm

For more information on the FY 2013 DOE budget request please click here http://energy.gov/articles/what-would-presidents-proposed-2013-budget-mean-energy-department

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

 

GRAHAM INTRODUCES "THE NUCLEAR WASTE FUND RELIEF AND REBATE ACT"

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently introduced “The Nuclear Waste Fund Relief and Rebate Act.” Co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).

The legislation introduced by Graham would rebate monies paid by electric utilities into the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund, estimated to be approximately $35 billion, back to those electric utilities and their consumers.  Seventy-five percent of the amount rebated to utilities would be returned to their customers and the remaining portion will be used to make upgrades to on-site storage facilities.

Additionally, the legislation would authorize payments to states currently housing defense nuclear waste scheduled to be transferred to Yucca Mountain.  These payments would begin in 2017, the date in which Yucca Mountain was to set to receive shipments of defense nuclear waste.

The major provisions of the Graham legislation include:  

  • Presidential Certification:  Within 30 days of passage, the President must certify that Yucca Mountain remains the preferred choice to serve as the federal repository for spent nuclear fuel and defense-related nuclear waste.
  • Failure to Certify Leads to Rebates:  If the President fails to make the above certification, or revokes the certification at a later date, all funds currently in the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund shall be rebated back to the utilities.  Seventy-five percent of the amount rebated to utilities would be returned to their customers and the remaining money will be used to make security and storage upgrades at existing nuclear power plants.
  • Defense Waste:  In order to help mitigate the risk associated with the indefinite storage of defense waste, the legislation authorizes payments of up to $100 million per year if defense waste has not begun to have left the states by 2017.
  • Waste Confidence:  In order to continue to renew or issue licenses for civilian nuclear power plants, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must have reasonable confidence that the waste will be disposed of safely.  The legislation includes waste confidence language that allows for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue to license nuclear reactors in the event the Presidential certification is not made.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 mandates that the government take possession of spent nuclear fuel and deposit it somewhere for long-term storage with the Department of Energy in charge of constructing and operating the repository.  In order to pay for the construction of a repository, a trust fund was also created from the collection of fees from nuclear utilities. Over the years, through a combination of Congressional and Executive actions, this fund is now inaccessible and roughly valued at $25 billion.    

To read the press release announcing the introduction of the bill, visit http://lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=07474429-802a-23ad-466a-ce7ff7d38f3e&Region_id=&Issue_id=

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

 

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA ANNOUNCES $1 BILLION NATIONAL COMMUNITY DEPLOYMENT CHALLENGE

Earlier this month, the President announced a new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge to spur deployment of clean, advanced vehicles in communities around the country.  The President also announced a set of incentives to help consumers and businesses purchase new, advanced cars and trucks, including increasing and expanding the current tax credit for advanced vehicles, from the $7,500 credit that currently exists up to $10,000, while allowing the credit to be applied to additional types of technologies, not currently covered. In addition, the President announced a new research challenge that invests in breakthrough technologies to make electric vehicles as affordable and convenient to own and operate as gasoline-powered vehicles by the end of the decade.

The new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge would catalyze up to 10 to 15 model communities to invest in the necessary infrastructure, remove the regulatory barriers, and create the local incentives to support deployment of advanced vehicles at critical mass.  The proposal embraces a strategy similar to that outlined by Senators Merkley and Alexander in their Promoting Electric Vehicles legislation.  This proposal, however, would be ‘fuel neutral’, allowing communities to determine if electrification, natural gas, or other alternative fuels would be the best fit.  Deployment Communities would serve as real-world laboratories, leveraging limited federal resources to develop different models to deploy advanced vehicles at scale.

The President also proposed to improve the current tax credit for electric vehicles by:

  • Expanding eligibility for the credit to a broader range of advanced vehicle technologies;
  • Increasing the amount from $7,500, making it scalable up to $10,000;
  •  Reforming the credit to make it available at the point-of-sale by making it transferable to the dealer or financier, allowing consumers to benefit when they purchase a vehicle rather than when they file their taxes; and,
  • Removing the cap on the number of vehicles per manufacturer eligible for the credit and, instead, ramping down and eventually eliminating the credit at the end of the decade.

The President also launched “EV Everywhere”, a clean energy grand challenge to make electric-powered vehicles as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered vehicles for the average American family within a decade.   This national effort is the second in a series of Clean Energy Grand Challenges designed by the Department of Energy (DOE) to bring together America’s best and brightest scientists, engineers, and businesses to work together to solve the most pressing energy technology challenges.  EV Everywhere will enable companies in the U.S. to produce electric vehicles at lower cost, with an improved vehicle range and an increased fast-charging ability. 

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget includes $650 million to advance vehicle and battery technologies at DOE, including investments that support this new grand challenge.  EV Everywhere will invest in breakthrough R&D for advanced batteries, electric drivetrain technologies, lightweight vehicle structures, and fast charging technology.

For additional information, refer to http://www.doe.gov/articles/president-obama-launches-ev-everywhere-challenge-part-energy-department-s-clean-energy

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

 

 

PRESIDENT PROPOSES NATIONAL NETWORK FOR MANUFACTURING INNOVATION

President Obama recently announced his proposal for a new initiative focused on strengthening and ensuring the long-term competitiveness and job-creating power of U.S. manufacturing. The proposal would build a network of up to 15 Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation, serving as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence to help make the nation’s manufacturers more competitive and encourage investment in the United States. The President’s budget for fiscal year 2013 proposes a $1 billion investment to create this new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The President also said his Administration will take immediate steps to launch a pilot institute for manufacturing innovation. The pilot institute will be funded from $45 million of existing resources from the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and will be selected from a competitive application process.

The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation will work to leverage new investment from industry, state and local government, and the research community. This initiative will be collaboration between Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy.

For more information on the newly established, interagency Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office please click here http://manufacturing.gov/amp/ampnpo.html

For more information on the President’s announcement, go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/09/president-obama-announce-new-efforts-support-manufacturing-innovation-en

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

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

 

 

WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCES NEW CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER

On March 9th, President Obama appointed Todd Park as Assistant to the President and U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO), filling a vacancy created by last month’s departure of Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s first CTO. Mr. Park has served as CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since August 2009, where he has been helping HHS harness the power of data, technology, and innovation to improve the health of all Americans.

President Obama created the position of U.S. Chief Technology Officer on his first day in office, noting that corporate leaders have long recognized the value of having a person responsible for ensuring that technology is being used as effectively as possible to gain operational efficiencies and ensure internal coordination and communication.  The U.S. CTO is responsible for ensuring the adoption of innovative technologies to support Administration priorities, including job creation, broader access to affordable health care, enhanced energy efficiency, a more open government, and national and homeland security.

In his work at HHS, Mr. Park led the successful execution of an array of breakthrough initiatives, including the creation of HealthCare.gov, the first website to provide consumers with a comprehensive inventory of public and private health insurance plans available across the nation by zip code in a single, easy-to-use tool.  In 2010, he was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business for his work as HHS CTO.       

The U.S. CTO’s office is situated within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where Mr. Park will work closely with U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Telecommunications Tom Power. OSTP Director and Presidential science advisor John P. Holdren announced today that Power will perform the duties of OSTP’s Associate Director for Technology—a position previously held by Chopra in conjunction with his role as U.S. CTO—while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement.

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

 

NIST RELEASES FINAL SMART GRID 'FRAMEWORK 2.0' DOCUMENT

An updated roadmap for the Smart Grid is now available from NIST, which recently finished reviewing and incorporating public comments into the NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 2.0. The 2.0 Framework lays out a plan for transforming the nation's aging electric power system into an interoperable Smart Grid, a network that will integrate information and communication technologies with the power-delivery infrastructure, enabling two-way flows of energy and communications.

The final version reflects input from a wide range of stakeholder groups, including representatives from trade associations, standards organizations, utilities and industries associated with the power grid.

Just as its draft version did, the final 2.0 Framework adds 22 standards, specifications and guidelines to the 75 standards NIST recommended in the 1.0 version of January 2010 as being applicable to the Smart Grid. Further improvements and additions to the 1.0 version include:

  • A new chapter on the roles of the SGIP;
  • An expanded view of the architecture of the Smart Grid;
  • A number of developments related to ensuring cybersecurity for the Smart Grid, including a Risk Management Framework to provide guidance on security practices;
  • A new framework for testing the conformity of devices and systems to be connected to the Smart Grid—the Interoperability Process Reference Manual;
  • Information on efforts to coordinate the Smart Grid standards effort for the United States with similar efforts in other parts of the world; and,
  • An overview of future areas of work, including electromagnetic disturbance and interference, and improvements to SGIP processes.

 
NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 2.0, is available at www.nist.gov/smartgrid/upload/NIST_Framework_Release_2-0_corr.pdf

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

 

 

ADVANCE YOUR CAREER AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE! APPLY FOR AN ASME FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FELLOWSHIP, INCLUDING A NEW OPPORTUNITY AT USAID!

ASME is currently accepting applications for participation in its Federal Government Fellowship Program through which ASME members provide engineering and technical expertise to policy-makers in Congress.  Federal Fellows provide a valuable public service to the nation, while at the same time providing engineers with a unique opportunity to participate directly in the public policy making process.

ASME Congressional Fellowships
ASME is seeking individuals interested in serving as a 2012-2013 Congressional Fellow, who would spend one year in Washington, D.C. working with the staff of a congressional committee, U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative. Congressional Fellowships are designed to demonstrate the value of engineering-government interaction, bring technical backgrounds and external perspectives to the decision making process in Congress and provide a unique public policy learning experience to the Fellow. Because of the limited number of Congressional Fellowships available, the process is very competitive. The following credentials are encouraged: at least five years of professional experience; an advanced engineering degree; professional engineer registration; and, some public policy experience.

United States Agency for International Development
This year, ASME is also pleased to announce a Federal Government Fellowship opportunity with the USAID, the principal federal agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms. 
USAID is currently developing Grand Challenges for Development in rain-fed agriculture and off grid, renewable energy for agriculture. The Office of Science & Technology seeks a fellow who can help drive the development of these two challenges, ensure that the problem statement is scientifically valid and rooted in the most current data and information, and liaise with the necessary and appropriate parties – both within and outside of USAID.   The Fellow will be expected to provide scientific, technical, and intellectual leadership, and analytical support contributing to the advancement of the Grand Challenges effort.  The Fellow will serve as a liaison with internal and external partners, helping USAID enhance its network of development solution providers.  The Fellow will also serve as an engineering adviser to the Director of the Office of Science & Technology.

All ASME Fellows will be awarded a stipend of $60,000 for the one year Fellowship. ASME Federal Fellows typically serve from September through August, but a January through December term is sometimes an option. Applications are accepted annually from December 1st through March 31st. All Fellows must be U.S. citizens and ASME members at the time of application.

To apply for an ASME Congressional Fellowship, fill out the online application at https://secure.asme.org/fedgovfellows/appform.cfm  and provide the requested materials. The application deadline is March 31, 2012.

For additional information about the ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program, visit http://www.asme.org/NewsPublicPolicy/GovRelations/Programs/Federal_Government.cfm   or contact Patti Jo Snyder, ASME Government Relations, at snyderp@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.

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