Congressional Quarterly, April 6, 2006










APRIL 6, 2006
























BIGGERT: The Subcommittee on Energy, the Science Committee, will come to order. I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.

I want to welcome everyone to this hearing on the president's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, commonly referred to as GNEP. The purpose of this partnership is to clear the way for the safe expansion of nuclear energy worldwide.

How do we do this? By using technology to address growing inventories of spent nuclear fuel. And today we intend to take a look at the goals, schedules, costs associated with this innovative research and development program.

In 20 years electricity demand in the United States is expected to increase by 50 percent. We must meet that demand and do so in an environmentally responsible way. Carefree increases in greenhouse gas emissions are not an option.

We need a diverse supply of clean electricity, and nuclear power must be part of that mix. It is the only reliable carbon-free, emissions- free source of electricity currently available that could provide the base load capacity to meet this demand. If we cannot supply our nation's needs for a clean energy, we run the risk of unacceptable, environmental and economic consequences.

However, for the United States and the world to benefit from the expanded use of nuclear energy, there's one vitally important issue that must be resolved. What do we do with the growing inventory of spent nuclear fuel? Yucca Mountain was to be the solution. Unfortunately, its intended opening slipped from 1998 to 2010. Then it slipped again to 2012 or 2014, or even possibly later.

And we all know by now that the statutory limit of Yucca Mountain is such that the repository effectively will be full from the waste generated by 2010. Yesterday, President Bush sent to Capitol Hill draft legislation intended to speed construction of the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. As part of this proposal, President Bush would lift the statutory limit on the capacity of Yucca Mountain, which is set at 70,000 metric tons under the current law.

Lifting this limit would allow for storage of up to 120,000 metric tons of spent fuel, which is still less than the repository's technical capacity. This proposal certainly buys us some time, but it would not obviate the need for additional repositories this century.

At one of this subcommittee's previous hearings on the future of nuclear energy, a witness testified that the U.S. would need up to nine additional repositories -- nine additional Yucca Mountains -- to accommodate the waste generated in the 21st century alone.

The good news is that we can achieve the vision of a single repository for the next century. And how do we do this? By transitioning to a closed, or some preferred the word advanced, fuel cycle now.

The advanced fuel cycle that I envision involves a lot more than just the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Reprocessing alone won't help -- it won't really help. It would only reduce the heat load of waste destined for Yucca Mountain by 10 percent.

We also need to recycle and reduce spent fuel using fast reactors for transmutation, which could reduce the heat load by a factor of 10 or more. To ensure a sustainable future for nuclear power in the United States, we must develop an advanced fuel cycle with all three components. We must take bold action now to realize the benefits of the advanced fuel cycle to our energy's security, our economic security and our national security.

And I believe that the administration has stepped up to the challenge with the announcement of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. GNEP supports the comprehensive development of an advanced fuel cycle, including all three of the important elements that I just mentioned: reprocessing, recycling and the use of advanced burner reactors to reduce the waste.

And it puts their development on a very aggressive timetable. We need to start now because these technologies won't be developed overnight. We are eager to learn more about the details of this important initiative, especially details about the comprehensive systems analysis.

It is essential that DOE understands how every component of the advanced fuel cycle interacts as the fuel moves through the system from cradle to grave. This will ensure the success of the program and raise the confidence of Congress and the public that we are making smart choices. Remodeling that incorporates the relevant technical, economic and policy considerations, the systems approach will allow us to optimize the fuel cycle and make informed decisions about how to proceed.

I understand that this effort is already under way and I applaud DOE for requesting a separate funding line in the FY07 budget request to support this system's analysis. I believe such an analysis is the lynchpin of the GNEP. Whether we are motivated by climate change, our addiction to foreign sources of energy, or skyrocketing energy costs, all of which have national security implications, nuclear power is a necessary and significant part of the solution.

However, nuclear energy as we know it today won't be sustainable without an advanced fuel cycle. I realize that some of the witnesses on the panel today are concerned about the timeliness and research and development priorities proposed by the DOE. I think it's important that we allow smart, informed nuclear scientists and engineers from outside the administration to weigh in.

It's also important that we hear from members of the energy industry, who in the long term will be an important player in the development of an advanced fuel cycle. Without hesitation, I support the vision of GNEP. We owe our children and grandchildren our best efforts to secure a clean, safe, reliable fuel for the future.

With that, I want to thank our witnesses for agreeing to share their knowledge and insight with us today. I look forward to an open and spirited discussion on this very important subject. I will now recognize the ranking member, Mr. Honda, for his opening statement.

HONDA: Thank you, and I thank the Chairwoman Biggert for holding this hearing today so we can learn more about the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which President Bush announced, without providing much detail, in February in his budget request.

As we all know, currently the United States does not reprocess our nuclear spent fuel because of concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons material. In addition, reprocessing is not cost effective since uranium supplies around the world are plentiful and can be fabricated into fuel at far less cost than reprocessing spent fuel. The economics of the situation have not changed and are not going to change for a long time.

Which brings us to the real reason that the Bush administration is putting forward a nuclear fuel reprocessing program, the problem of dealing with nuclear waste. The politics of Yucca Mountain have made it clear that siting and licensing a second waste repository is highly unlikely at this point. It still isn't clear how things are going to proceed with Yucca Mountain.

The Bush administration has seized upon this political situation to justify reprocessing of spent fuel to reduce the heat of the material that would potentially be put in Yucca Mountain in order to expand the capacity of the proposed repository.

Yesterday, the administration sent a legislative proposal to Congress to expedite the repository, which would lift the current statutory limit on the amount of waste that could be stored there.

Such a move is essential to justifying developing a reprocessing program. What troubles me about this whole Global Nuclear Energy Partnership proposal is the haste with which it seems to have been developed and the fact that a very small number of people seem to have made all of the key decisions without much input from the industry or scientific community.

For example, it appears that the technology for reprocessing spent fuel, UREX Plus, has already been selected by the advocates for the program. While the final decision hasn't been made, it seems that the decision has essentially been made to use metal fuel, which would require the construction of a pyroprocessing plant for each fast reactor that will be used to convert reprocessed fuel into electricity.

What isn't clear to me is who made these decisions? What process was used to make those decisions, or even why they have been already made given the premature stage of the technologies and huge uncertainty as to whether they will be successful and cost effective?

The spent nuclear fuel we have now can safely be stored in dry casks for 50 years or more, giving us plenty of time to do more research, more fully evaluate technology alternatives and have a greater engagement from all interested parties in the decision-making process.

Now, for a program that may cost as much as hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, it seems that such a study and scrutiny is at the least we can do to ensure that the best policy is what is pursued.

From where I sit, the way that the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership has been put together and then proposed looks a lot like the way in which the president took the nation to war in Iraq. The policy decisions have already been made by a small isolated group within the administration without all of the facts and without input from the experts from outside the group.

Once that decision was made, then a justification for it was developed and sold to Congress. A story posted on the Web site of the scientific journal, Nature, yesterday, about the disbanding of the secretary of energy's advisory board, which was chartered to provide the secretary with timely, balanced external advice on issues of importance, only reinforces the impression that outside input is not welcomed on major programs such as GNEP.

But as with Iraq, there seems to be a major uncertainties in GNEP, uncertainties in the technical feasibility, the cost and uncertainty in the ability of the agency in charge to successfully carry out such a large effort. I don't believe that it is wise for us to rush to judgment on GNEP as we rushed to war.

And I certainly don't want to see the kind of outcome that a rushed decision, an incomplete plan are sure to deliver. This decision doesn't need to be made today. We have other means for storing nuclear waste temporarily while we wait for all of the facts.

In closing, Madam Chairwoman, I thank you again for holding this hearing so that we can try to get some answers on how these decisions were made. We can hear some outside thoughts on this proposal and perhaps hear some alternative options for dealing with the problem. Thank you.

BIGGERT: Thank you, Mr. Honda.

With that, any additional opening statements submitted by members may be added to the record. And at this time, I would like to introduce our witnesses and thank you all for coming this morning.

And going from left to right -- or my left to right -- Mr. Shane Johnson is the deputy director for technology in the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology at the Department of Energy.

Until just a few days ago, Mr. Johnson served as the acting director of the Office, and thank you, Shane, for agreeing to appear before us today. We do understand that three days on the job probably wasn't enough for your new assistant secretary, Dennis Spurgeon, to catch up on everything, but I do want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Spurgeon and to brag a little.

Mr. Spurgeon would be a director rather than an assistant secretary if I hadn't fought hard for the elevation of that position in the energy bill last summer, and I think that that was a much- needed change in title.

Dr. Neil Todreas is the KEPCO professor of nuclear engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also a member of the distinguished MIT panel that wrote the 2003 report on the future of nuclear power. Welcome.

Dr. Richard Garwin is an IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Tomas J. Watson Research Center in New York, and has had a long and distinguished career in research, teaching, writing and government policy on nuclear issues. Welcome.

And then Mr. David Modeen is the vice president for Nuclear Power and the chief nuclear officer of the Electric Power Research Institute, and is also a nuclear engineer by training.

As the witnesses know, spoken testimony will be limited to five minutes each, after which the members will have five minutes each to ask questions. So we'll start with Mr. Johnson; you're recognized for five minutes.

JOHNSON: Chairman Biggert, Ranking Member Honda, and members of the subcommittee, I'd like to express my thanks for the opportunity to discuss the administration's proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partner, or GNEP, with you this morning. I have submitted a written statement for the record, but would like to provide a few summary remarks.

The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is the nuclear energy component of the president's advanced energy initiative, and it addresses the global issues of energy security, the environment and nuclear proliferation.

To support the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, the department has proposed $250 million in fiscal year 2007 to accelerate efforts already under way, under our advanced fuel cycle initiative, to demonstrate technologies associated with spent nuclear fuel recycling.

My testimony today focuses on the goals, schedule and anticipated costs of the technology development component of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. The president has stated a policy goal that includes worldwide expansion of nuclear energy. The reasons for this are obvious.

Nuclear power is the only mature technology of significant potential to provide large amounts of emission-free, base-load power, resulting in cleaner air, reduced global greenhouse gas intensities, pollution abatement and energy diversity.

To accomplish the objectives of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, the department proposes to accelerate the development, demonstration and deployment of new technologies to recycle spent fuel through the Office of Nuclear Energy's advanced fuel cycle initiative. As an initial step, the department has requested $250 million in our '07 budget request. As part of this initial step, the department proposes to accelerate the demonstration of more proliferation- resistant recycling technologies.

In concert with this, the department will work with international partners to incorporate advanced safeguards technologies into the design and potential construction of any advanced facilities.

In a broad outline, the technology demonstration phase consists of developing, designing, constructing and operating an integrated set of demonstration facilities, an advanced separation's technology called Uranium Extraction Plus, or UREX Plus, which features a group transuranic separations process, an advanced, fast-burner reactor that could consume the transuranics from the spent fuel, significantly reducing the amount of nuclear waste requiring disposal, and a new fuel cycle laboratory for developing the transuranic fuels needed for the advanced reactor.

By preceding with the demonstrations of these technologies, we will learn the practicality of closing the fuel cycle in the United States. We have had considerable success demonstrating the advanced separations technology at the laboratory scale. However, by demonstrating the closure of the fuel cycle at an engineering scale, we will be able to optimize the design of a future full-scale facility and reduce the cost and time to deploy such a facility.

The department has established a target range of 2011 to 2015 for initial operation of the advanced separations facility, 2014 to 2019 for initial operation of the advanced test burner reactor using conventional fuels, and 2016 to 2019 for the first modules of the advanced fuel cycle laboratory.

Early preconceptual estimates of the 10-year cost to bring these facilities to the point of operation range from $4 billion to $10 billion. As the project matures, we will develop more detailed and accurate baselines of costs and schedule.

Presently, the department's efforts are aimed at conducting the applied research, engineering and environmental studies needed over the next two years to inform a decision in 2008 on whether to proceed to detailed design and construction of these facilities.

In fiscal year 2007, the department would continue the applied research to refine the UREX Plus technology, begin work on the conceptual design, functions and operational requirements and other analyses leading to the development of baseline costs and schedules for these three facilities.

The department would also propose to invest in the development of the advanced burner reactor technology, initiate conceptual design studies and start a series of extensive studies to -- again to establish cost and schedule baselines for the advanced burner reactor. To guide this effort, the Office of Nuclear Energy has instituted a multi-laboratory process to develop the detailed program plan that will lay out the scope of work for the next five years.

This plan will establish the milestones and work to be accomplished and establish the research priorities for the next five years, subject to appropriations. This plan is expected to be completed in May.

The integration of basic research and simulation in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is a key priority for the department. The department organized a workshop on simulation for the nuclear industry at our Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and the Office of Science will lead a program of basic science workshops this summer. The results from these workshops will help guide our long-term R&D agenda for closing the fuel cycle.

We are in a much stronger position to shape the future if we are part of it. In closing, this is an ambitious plan, and the technology demonstrations will be a key challenge for the United States and our partner countries, but it is an endeavor, if successful, can ensure that nuclear energy is available, safe and secure for generations to come. We seek the advice and support of this committee and of the Congress, and I look forward to answering your questions.

BIGGERT: Thank you very much. I would just like to interrupt a moment to extend a warm welcome to a colleague from California, Mr. Rohrabacher, who I know is very interested in this issue. And I would ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to sit with the subcommittee and participate in today's hearing. Without objection -- so ordered.

OK. Dr. Todreas? You're recognized for five minutes.

TODREAS: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, and members of the committee. It's an honor to appear before you to discuss GNEP. The program offers a strategic vision for expanded use of nuclear energy in the world and in the U.S. Its achievement of its goals as a long- term objective is highly desirable.

However, my concerns deal with the apparent schedule of rapid implementation of GNEP program elements. A schedule, which implies near-term choice and deployment -- and here I'm not speaking of R&D, I'm making a distinction -- of reprocessing technologies, fast reactive fuel, fast reactive design characteristics and associated reactor demonstration facilities.

These near-term choices are not necessary, since alternative approaches are sufficient for spent fuel and proliferation management over the time period before GNEP could provide an effect. Rapid implementation of choices is unwise, since it threatens the successful execution of a GNEP program.

By successful program execution, I mean effective integration and coordination of program elements; expenditures, which are both reasonable and sustainable; protection of the public, as well as worker health and safety; facilities with adequate and demonstrable physical protection; and an expanding nuclear deployment with adequate proliferation safeguards.

My focus this morning and in my written statement was on the formulation and timing of the R&D program. I speak on GNEP from limited literature materials. I must say the depth of detail provided by DOE on GNEP through these sources is technically very meager. I framed my views in the written statement, and this morning, as I talk, on the key facilities for GNEP, particularly their missions and their time scales.

It is these deployment schedules which shape the allowed depth and breadth of the R&D associated with each facility. First is the simulation and visualization lab. Simulation and visualization are properly the initial step underlying all subsequent selections among process, fabrication and reactor design choices. It's here that R&D data are used to formulate and/or validate predictive models for such selections.

Our MIT study highlighted the lack of such a capability in our nuclear program and recommended that among 11 program elements we proposed, it receive the largest R&D expenditure -- that of $100 million per year over 10 years. I applaud the launching and the plan for this.

The engineering scale demonstration is next to be operable in 2011. It's here the process for separation of uranium and short-lived fission products from the transuranics and the long-life fission products is to be demonstrated. The selection of the separation process is the first critical step. It has been mentioned UREX Plus 1, or perhaps UREX Plus 1A -- I haven't been able to figure that out yet -- has been selected at a capacity of 100 to 200 tons per year.

The important question is whether there's a satisfactory basis for this selection for scale-up, from laboratory to pilot plant, since it is an important and large expenditure. The criteria against which these questions must be answered are process economics, safety, materials accountability and physical protection. Some demonstration above the laboratory scale must be made, but it shouldn't be premature because it locks GNEP into a critical, likely irreversible, plan.

I have comments on each of the facilities. We can discuss these if you want. I'll move toward a conclusion -- by the facilities, I mean the test reactor, the advanced burner reactor, and the advanced fuel cycle facility, as well as actually small-scale reactors. Those four are additional critical facilities.

I wanted to close, though, with pointing out to you that, while the partnership is very technically intensive and long term, its execution and the probability of its success will depend heavily on the technical strength of the new generation of nuclear professionals recruited to its ranks. The U.S. academic community today lacks depth in its faculty in the reprocessing and in reactive design.

So it's unfortunate in two aspects that the existing AFCI fellowship program in the budget proposed has been cut in half. And also that the department terminated the broader, all-encompassing university research fuel and assistance support program, which is the primary vehicle for supporting the infrastructure of the nuclear engineering academic community.

In summary, GNEP is worthy of pursuit. However, there are serious decisions about its possible and optimum pace to be resolved, which involve technical readiness, facility processes and scale selection, and the consequences of redirecting most of the available funding for nuclear energy to this program. Thank you.

BIGGERT: Thank you doctor.

And now, Dr. Garwin, you are recognized for five minutes.


BIGGERT: Would you make sure your mike is on?

GARWIN: Thank you.

I've provided some visual aids to help me keep on track. So I'm speaking on my own -- affiliation is given for identification only.

The U.S. nuclear power plants -- 103 of them -- provide almost 20 percent of U.S. electricity, and we want to see that expanded in the future. So first, the requirement for GNEP is that it do no harm to this industrial base and its future expansion.

Now GNEP includes the provision of reactor fuel to international partners and take-back of spent fuel for disposal. This is a policy matter, not so much a technical matter. We need to create an international system; this is not just going to be bilateral.

Reprocessing can extend uranium resource for light water reactors by 20 percent at most and at a cost that is very high of $130 to $1,000 per kilogram of uranium saved. The DOE purpose in reprocessing is primarily to save the repository resource, but at what cost and risk? How much does it cost to save compared with expanding the repository, as we will see.

Yucca Mountain can be extended and replicated, dry casks storage is cheap and safe for 50 to 100 years, so there's really no hurry to move on reprocessing, if we do it at all. GNEP doesn't propose reprocessing and recycle into light water reactors and for good reason. This was really a failed bet on the part of the Japanese, French and British -- the price of uranium did not rise, so it has cost them a lot of money and mobilized a lot of radioactivity that would otherwise be sitting pretty harmlessly in spent fuel.

The once-through U.S. fuel cycle is far more proliferation resistant than is the proposed UREX Plus reprocessing. Simple -- to obtain 10 kilograms of plutonium to make a bomb you must steal and reprocess 1,000 kilograms of self-protecting spent fuel. With UREX Plus, you steal 11 kilograms of separated plutonium plus some other transuranics.

GNEP's proposed UREX Plus separation for LWR fuel and burning in fast- neutron advanced burner reactors is far more costly than enhancing repository space. Yucca Mountain is estimated at 200,000 tons, technically, and there is a proposal to expand it half way there. The charge from DOE is $1 million per kilowatt-hour -- eminently affordable. Reprocessing and burning is going to be at least five times that much.

Defining the GNEP program without the promised systems analysis tool is like driving without a map. Such a tool would show that the $155 million, first-year UREX Plus program is misguided. UREX is not significantly better than PUREX when conducted in the United States or other nuclear weapon states.

The advanced burner reactor fuel reprocessing needs to be 99-plus percent efficient, not the LWR reprocessing that is done just once. So the goals for UREX Plus for reprocessing light water reactor fuel are set technically too high. We don't need them. We could approach them gradually.

The ABRs, at least 30 percent of the population of the light water reactors, will need to be government-operated or heavily subsidized. With this heavy subsidy, it's important to know how much it's going to be and for how long.

It's very important to have the ABR, its fuel form, its fuel reprocessing all decided together with an extended design competition that should justifiably take decades in order to minimize the subsidy that would be required, and to find out how much it is.

Well, what should we do with the arbitrary cap on Yucca Mountain? Commit to dry cask interim storage, take the lead in creating an international system for assured supply of LEU reactor fuel and assured disposal, lead in the institutional design to encourage commercial, competitive mined geologic repositories that would be certified by the IAEA to accept IAEA-certified spent fuel and waste forms, and we should outsource to repositories elsewhere, not just in the United States.

And finally, the United States government should fund worldwide evaluation of resource versus cost of currently uneconomic terrestrial and seawater uranium resources. Are there 170 million tons of terrestrial uranium up to $260 per kilogram? Can we obtain 2,000 million tons of uranium from seawater at $300 or $1,000 per kilogram?

If we're talking about reprocessing and saving uranium at $1,000 per kilogram, we ought to know of the alternatives. And we need urgently to complete and use the systems analysis tool to guide decisions, not to justify them after the fact.

Thank you. My prepared testimony, I hope, justifies these comments.

BIGGERT: Thank you very much, Dr. Garwin.

Mr. Modeen? You're recognized for five minutes.

MODEEN: OK. Thank you very much.

On behalf of the Electric Power Research Institute and its nuclear utility members, I'd like to express our appreciation for this opportunity to address your committee, Chairman Biggert, on the matter of nuclear energy and the research and development we need to expand its use, not only nationally, but globally.

EPRI, working with the Idaho National Laboratory, recently completed a document entitled, "The Nuclear Energy Development Agenda: A Consensus Strategy for the U.S. Government and Industry." I was glad to see that the committee members were given a copy of that, and I also appreciated, of course, listening to your remarks at the most recent NEI R&D Summit, where we had really our first public unveiling of that strategy.

The agenda that I refer to is included in my written testimony in more detail, but I'll focus here on three main points. The first point: For nuclear energy to expand and prosper is a key element of our national energy strategy; industry and government must work together more -- specifically industry and government need to reach a consensus on the strategy and work together on both the planning and the execution.

The second point: The longer-term future of nuclear energy must be built on a solid foundation that is grounded in the current, on- going nuclear energy initiatives, which we believe must be successful in order for the longer-term elements -- those included in GNEP, I believe, that really have any relevance.

And those three initiatives that form that foundation are, first, the continued safe and effective operation of our current fleet of reactors; the second, the near-term licensing and deployment of advanced light water reactors; and third, the licensing and construction of a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain.

And the third point: Enabled by success in these three nearer- term areas, longer-term goals for nuclear energy become possible through advances in technology.

And here again, there are three initiatives required: expanding the application of nuclear energy into process heat applications, including production of hydrogen for an industrial and transportation uses, as well as desalination; and the second is greatly expanding the nuclear fuel resources for long-term energy and environmental sustainability through spent fuel recycling; and then third, strengthening the proliferation resistance and physical protection of any nuclear fuel cycle.

And what I'd like to do now is expand on each of those three areas that I just mentioned. First, on the need for industry and government to work together -- to a large degree, the paradigm, at least in nuclear R&D the past 10 years or more, has been that government only works on the long-term research and industry works on only the relatively short-term.

We believe that paradigm has been an obstacle to really achieving alignment on goals and priorities and, in fact, trying to achieve alignment and forming the basis for a consensus strategy is why we developed the paper that we did. It was our motivation and really agreed upon by my CEO, as well as the director of the Idaho National Lab.

And so, consequently, we agreed that the government should dedicate more of its efforts to the shorter-to-medium-term -- tried to outline what those might be -- and then vice versa; industry needs to step up to some of those longer-term.

And this really has three objectives. First, is to leverage the government R&D investment. Second, is to introduce mission focus and market relevance in the R&D decision-making. And third, to accelerate that research and development process and the transfer of results into the economy and the market place. And, consequently, again, I can reinforce that I believe the industry and government, by working synergistically in planning and execution, will achieve more.

And adding to a point that Dr. Todreas mentioned, I'd like to refer that the industry that I'm talking about is more than utilities -- it includes the vendors, the architect engineers, the manufacturers, academia, craft labor, entities that are absolutely necessary to achieve our goals. And we certainly recognize that we need a more comprehensive plan to restore the nuclear industrial infrastructure in this country. And I share Dr. Todreas' concern about the loss to funding to the nuclear university education programs.

The renaissance in nuclear energy that is beginning to take shape poses challenges for both industry and government and challenges, I believe, are probably the greatest of our professional careers in the nuclear industry. The expectations are high, the schedules are aggressive and the resources will be limited. Planning must be realistic and address commercial deployment in a competitive market place, not just the cost of completing the R&D.

And we believe the utility industry has much to offer the Department of Energy as it embarks on major new technology development programs -- we want to be part of that planning, as well as the execution, and we're looking forward to working with the new leadership.

The second area that I talked about was the near-term priorities for nuclear energy, because they do have some insights relevant to the GNEP activity. First, we commend the Congress for its insight and support for creating a new program authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 -- focused on the current plants -- entitled, "The Nuclear Energy Systems Support Program."

EPRI has long argued that there's an important federal role in certain aspects of current plan R&D, particularly in areas where there's either a strong federal interest in the success -- and I'll give an example in a moment -- or where the technology challenges are just too high or the risk is too high for the private sector to fund on its own.

A good example is high performance nuclear fuel, both for the current fleet and the advanced light water reactors. This high performance fuel, we believe, can achieve burn-up levels, and that's really energy production twice as high as the current fleet, and this would reduce the volume of spent fuel generated by a factor of two.

And if, in fact, that the stated goal of GNEP -- one of the stated goals -- is to reduce the volume of waste that would be required in a disposal in repository by 80 percent, it certainly stands to reason that this type of technology is in the federal interest and should be a priority.

The second piece is the near-term -- or the second element is the near-term licensing and deployment of advanced light water reactors, which is critical to the industry's ability to provide safe, economic and reliable electric generation for decades to come.

We were please to see that GNEP recognized the strategic importance of the NP2010 program and believe this cost share program requires acceleration to support the new plant project schedule. The recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission call for a design-centered approach for a combined license applications will require more extensive work up front in standardizing these submittals.

And finally, the EPRI-INL strategy paper calls for an integrated and cost effective spent-fuel management plan. The lynchpin of this strategy is the repository at Yucca Mountain. Not only is a geologic repository needed under all strategies and scenarios for the future, but near-term progress on licensing of Yucca Mountain is essential to expanding nuclear energy in this country.

The other key elements of that integrated strategy include allowing expansion of the Yucca Mountain site to its full technical capacity, as Dr. Garwin mentioned, reducing the rate of spent fuel generation via deployment of high performance light water reactor fuel, maintaining engineered cooling of the repository well in excess of 50 years prior to closure, providing for interim centralized storage or aging pads for dry canister passive cooling, deploying multi-purpose canisters and implementing an effective spent fuel transportation system, and eventually recycling of spent fuel to reduce volume and heat rate, thus making more effective use of the repository space.

These steps have taken together and coordinated, provide ample time for long-term R&D, that I will discuss next, to be completed before concerns arise as to the need for a second repository. In a final perspective, then, on the longer-term goals regarding process heat and hydrogen generation, there is a market today, and we believe that we support the plan laid out in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Regarding GNEP, specifically, our paper was developed with no knowledge of GNEP, and before it was issued, and that we do support the vision and the goals -- it's really just a matter of, I think, the timing. And, consequently, we support the funding for it such that we can really get in and explore the types of issues that Doctors Todreas and Garwin had cited.

And I think I'm out of time, chairman.

Thank you for the opportunity to address your committee.

BIGGERT: Thank you very much.

We will now have members who will ask questions. Again, we have a time limit for us for five minutes, and I will begin with the first question.

Mr. Johnson, Dr. Garwin supports the vision of GNEP, but he asserts in his testimony that technical goals of the program are more ambitious than is really needed. Achieving GNEP's technical goals could increase the effective storage capacity of Yucca Mountain's repository by a factor of 100, whereas a 10-fold increase in capacity, which could be achieved at lower cost, would enable Yucca Mountain to store the waste produced by commercial power reactors operating for the next century. Do you agree with this?

JOHNSON: Based on simply hearing the statement this morning, I can't say that I hear anything I disagree with, but I would prefer to read a little bit more in detail and understand the basis for the...

BIGGERT: Well, then would you think that DOE would consider scaling back the technical requirements for separations efficiency in your systems analysis?

JOHNSON: If, upon further study and investigation, that is the correct course of action, yes.

BIGGERT: All right, thank you.

Then this for Dr. Garwin, Mr. Johnson and Dr. Todreas -- I cannot say that -- Todreas, is that right?


BIGGERT: Todreas, I'm saying an extra syllable and I thank you -- Todreas.

Again, Dr. Garwin asserts in his testimony that the ordering of R&D priorities in GNEP is all wrong, and he suggests that any near- term demonstration of UREX is premature and wasteful, and we should instead focus on the advanced burner reactors and the fuels for the ABRs and the reprocessing technology necessary for the ABRs. So do you agree with that?

Dr. Todreas?

TODREAS: Yes, let me start. The other thing Dr. Garwin said is that the fuel reprocessing in the reactor design has to be done together and in coordination. This is new in reactor technology. We always used to design the reactor with the fuel, then throw the fuel over the fence and let people take care of it, from a waste management point of view.

In this new activity, particularly with reprocessing, you have to do them all together, in terms of coordination, and so the bottlenecks here are the reactive design and its fuel selection, as well as successful reprocessing. So my answer would be you've got pursue UREX, or whatever comes out of it, and in parallel, design a fast reactor, select the fuel, and most importantly, which hasn't been mentioned, is you've got to get the capital cost of the fast reactors down so they can be cost competitive so that industry will take over the operation of these, which will make electricity on the competitive market.

BIGGERT: If there were to be built, then, a new reactor, the light water reactor, would that show how to cut the cost on that? We haven't built a reactor, you know, in this country in so long. Would that help to start with that and then determine how to build the other?

TODREAS: Well, yes, first -- getting a light water reactor ought to get the industry going to rejuvenate people, that's critical. But if you're implying that there's not a significant difference between the design and objectives of a fast reactor for transmutation...

BIGGERT: No, I'm not suggesting that.

TODREAS: OK. So you have to start with the light water reactor, but then the challenges of a fast-spectrum reactor for transmutation with its fuel, with its reprocessing, are a factor above a light water reactor design. And you've got to get after that, too.

BIGGERT: Well, I think we need to start that process right away, but some of you are saying we should wait. But I think that, also with the industry to start -- anyway -- Mr. Johnson, do you have anything to add to that?

JOHNSON: What we've tried to do is lay out a development program where we are scaling up to an appropriate size these demonstration facilities to better inform the question and the cost of any further commercialization of the technology. So we are trying to walk through this in a step-wise fashion -- better understand the science and the technology, better understand the ultimate cost and schedule requirements.

BIGGERT: Thank you.

And, Dr. Garwin, how would we obtain enough material to fabricate and test new fuels without a sizable UREX demonstration plant?

GARWIN: There's plenty of separated fuel available abroad. There is MOX fuel if you wanted to go to mixed oxide fuel -- 40 tons of it that was prepared for the Super Phoenix in France -- so, no problem. And what you want is test fuel, that is, you want small amounts of fuel, not a full reactor load. The advanced burner test reactor is to be a neutron source, a fast-spectrum (ph) source, for testing small amounts...

BIGGERT: And if we don't want to use MOX, then what?

GARWIN: It's very much up in the air as to whether one uses methyl fuel or oxide fuel or carbide fuel or nitride fuel -- and there are advantages to both of them, as Dr. Todreas says, it's never really been considered all together -- the reactor design, its safety, its margins, the fuel form and the reprocessing. And that's exactly what needs to be done here in order to get the capital cost of this fast reactor down.

So this is a big gamble, and the question is, can we increase the odds of winning it? But I do emphasize that the engineering scale demonstration for UREX Plus is far too big, whatever its technical requirement. It assumes that there will be a single 2,000 ton per year plant, and 1 percent is a typical demonstration scale that could be 20 tons per year, not 200 tons per year -- much too big, much too soon, much too high of requirements set on it.

BIGGERT: I think we've wasted 25 years since we stopped this process. I hope that we will move ahead.

Mr. Modeen, you wanted to make a comment?

MODEEN: Yes, Madam Chairman, just a couple of things. I was listening to the answers to the -- first as an example to support Dr. Todreas. The French experience with the Phoenix and then the Super Phoenix reactor -- Phoenix, the smaller reactor, worked very well, and in fact is still working today. Scaled up to large commercial size, 1,350 megawatt electric Super Phoenix ran on and off, but eventually, after 10 or 12 years, made the decision to decommission -- it just could not make it work right at that level.

The second piece is relative to our study with the Idaho National Lab. I think our view -- and I think what I'm hearing from the panelists is not so much that we don't do the research, but it's all things in time in trying to figure out what does one do first and then next and next, and understand and make informed decisions based on that research prior to the construction of some of these engineered facilities and otherwise, that's kind of the industry's perspective.

BIGGERT: Thank you.

Mr. Honda, you are recognized.

HONDA: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm trying to wrap my head around this whole discussion and this whole process, and I think that what I'm hearing is that we've made decisions quickly, and there's some concerns about the one process to the selected process or the solution set, and there's a lot of concern about the magnitude in costs and readiness.

Mr. Johnson, you talked of GNEP being a phase program in which decisions and plans will proceed only after sound assessments of cost risks and schedules are understood. You're planning to conduct applied research, engineering and environmental studies to inform these decisions. What do these studies need to show to justify the current technology down (ph) selections and how will the studies affect these decisions should they prove to be adverse to the current plan?

JOHNSON: What we are planning to do -- and what we hope to do over the next two years -- is to continue the research that's been under way in our laboratories over the last four years on the separations technology, develop the conceptual design of these facilities, conduct the necessary national environmental policy analyses, and to develop a better understanding of cost and schedule for moving forward with the demonstration facilities and to have completed the types of systems analysis that has been discussed so far this morning, to better understand, and to be able to make a completely informed decision as to, is this the right path to continue down or is there a course correction that is necessary or is it, you know, something to abandon all together.

HONDA: OK, now, that's within the context of UREX Plus?

JOHNSON: It's in the context of all of the demonstration facilities, sir.

HONDA: So you're saying that you'll be looking at different processes and making a comparative analysis of their cost effectiveness and their timeliness and things like that?

JOHNSON: With respect to the separations technology, the work that we've done to date in the laboratory gives us full confidence that the UREX Plus process is indeed the correct process to continue with. So, while we may continue some small level of effort in some other advanced aqueous processes, the majority of our work would be focused on the UREX Plus process.

HONDA: OK, I think I'm getting clearer now. We're focused on UREX process as if we already made the decision that we want to go down that path prior to looking at all processes first. Is that a correct statement that there's been some decisions already made to go down that path in spite of the fact that you're saying that we're going to study others, or?

JOHNSON: Yes, sir, that is...

HONDA: And was that choice made through some sort of pure review process where other folks were involved in deciding that, or how was that decision made?

JOHNSON: The decision has been made from an informed position: one, knowing and understanding the PUREX process that is used internationally...

HONDA: Excuse me, informed meaning by peer review or by a small group of folks? Was there outside folks, or who did that?

JOHNSON: Our federal advisory committee, our Subcommittee on Advanced Fuel Cycle Program, chaired by Dr. Burton Richter, has been watching over and informing and kind of guiding this program since its inception.

HONDA: So he guided a group that, was brought in its input, within the government in the technical fields and other folks -- I guess that's what we call peer review, is that what you're saying?

JOHNSON: It is one type of peer review, sir.

HONDA: But the traditional understanding of what peer review means -- is that what you're saying, or are you saying it's a narrow form of peer review?

JOHNSON: I'm saying it's an independent outside body, which has done monitoring and reviewing the progress made in the laboratory.

HONDA: OK, can you tell me who chose them or how they were chosen?

JOHNSON: They were chosen -- the subcommittee was populated by decision of the full federal advisory committee.

HONDA: OK, and I suspect that you have records of the discussions then of how you approached the consensus?

JOHNSON: Yes, sir, we have records of their meeting minutes.

HONDA: OK. Thank you.

To the -- it appears my time is up, but just a real quick question to the other three. Do you have any comments to the question that I had?

GARWIN: I have had the benefit of an exchange of correspondence with Dr. Richter. I don't think that they had contact with the GNEP until the end of February, and I really don't understand whether the UREX process that was proposed at that time separated the plutonium and the transuranics from the lanthanide fission products or not.

If not, then the fuel was by no means self-protecting by a factor of 1,000 or so. I understand now Dr. Fink's (ph) briefing of March 10 includes the lanthanides to be shipped to the advanced burner reactor plant and then removed, but this is hardly a stable program, and it could hardly be said that the transmutation subcommittee reviewed and chose it.

TODREAS: What I wanted to do was just bring you back to the criteria that I mentioned for selection, which were coordination, economics, protection of public health and worker safety, physical protection and safeguards. And before you settle on a process for UREX and then commit down the road for large expenditures, maybe some engineering demonstration is OK before that -- and more like 20 tons or something. You've got to check that.

And I just take cost, economics. I know you've had hearings on the economics of reprocessing, but this reprocessing cost is going to be expensive. It's going to raise the fuel cycle cost for nuclear power. You need a systems approach as to who's going come up with that cost, and you need to bound that cost. And so before you pick the process, you need to have enough R&D results in hand that you know where you are on that factor.

So UREX, UREX 1, UREX Plus 1 may look good, but I don't think it's been through a systematic study, evaluation, pinning all the points on these criteria I listed, and I'd go back to cost. And it's no wonder; it's just been at lab scale. So, much more R&D needs to be done.

HONDA: Thank you.

BIGGERT: Mr. Honda, I think that we should keep in mind that the laboratories have been doing reprocessing R&D for quite some time now. In fact, the Argonne National Lab that's in my district -- when I first came to Congress was really working on that electrometallurgic reprocessing and then went to the pyroprocessing. So I don't think that UREX is new -- in fact, it is not new, and it has been studied.

But what we were talking about really now is the R&D and demonstrations so...

HONDA: Well, if I may, Madam Chair, I think I understand what you're saying, but what I'm hearing though -- even though it's R&D -- that there's still other matters and primers that still haven't been scaled out from R&D into a pilot program. And it sounds like what we're looking at is 200 tons rather than 20, and there's a concern about the whole rolling out and planning for...


BIGGERT: I think Mr. Johnson can address that, and I'd like him to, because I think that's a little misunderstanding there.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.

With respect to the size of the facility, I'm sure the department has contributed more to the confusion on that matter than anyone around, and I would like to just take this opportunity to point out that, while initially in the internal discussions within the department on the overall Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, that these technology demonstrations -- larger numbers, or larger sized facilities were discussed.

Right now though, sir, we have under way an activity looking at making a determination or recommendation on an adequately sized facility for the separations work.

Like you, I will admit a facility on the order of, you know, 200 metric tons or 500 metric tons scares me to death. One, is we don't know enough to go to that size facility. Secondly, I doubt we could afford it.

So we have an activity under way, being which will be informed by experienced personnel from those countries who are operating such facilities to date, as well as scientists and engineers within our laboratory system in making a determination of what is an appropriately scaled-sized facility for demonstrating the physical phenomena that is of most interest in understanding the processes and being able to determine the safety of operating research facility.

So the final design sizes have not been -- and my hope is that it is significantly smaller than what the stated sizes have been to date.

HONDA: Madam Chairman, may I ask you a question?

BIGGERT: I hate to keep our other members waiting, so let's come back to that.

The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Neugebauer, is recognized for five minutes.

NEUGEBAUER: Thank you, chairwoman.

I want to kind of move to the more commercial application. I think one of the things that I'm strongly convinced is that we have got to do whatever is necessary to get moving again on nuclear energy in the production of electricity, primarily from that.

I think we have lulled ourselves here and wasted a lot of time, as the chairwoman mentioned, not doing that. As I listen to the dialogue this morning, what concerns me is that I kind of heard that Mr. Modeen in talking about the fact that -- maybe that the scientific community and the commercial community are not necessarily working in conjunction with technologies that we can bring out quickly, and that, you know, we've got some people working on the long-term, some people working on the short-term.

I appreciate some of the comments that Dr. Garwin made about, you know, let's focus on things that work, make sense, and let's make them cost effective, and those are wonderful words to my ears. I think one of the things that I would ask you, the panel, is, you know, where are -- we can't just go into a demonstration project and drag this out another 10 or 15, 20 years without really getting -- stepping up the, I believe, the commercial construction of new reactors in this country.

So my question to the panel today is, while some of these things may have some long-range research value -- and that will be wonderful, but the American taxpayers today need for us to do whatever we can to get our dependence on foreign energy reduced fairly quickly. So what are we doing today, and what are some of the things that we should be doing to get that process moving forward, where we really need to be breaking ground on a new reactor or several new reactors within the next 12 to 18 months. And are we going to do that, and can we do that?

Mr. Johnson?

JOHNSON: Thank you, sir. The department's nuclear power 2010 program, which is a cost-share initiative with industry finalizing design of the most advanced light water reactor designs, helping demonstrate the new regulatory processes for siting and operating these facilities -- it's been a tremendous success and continues to be. We're fully committed to that program and based on the work that we've done in partnership with the industry, we've seen, and hopefully you've read as well in the press, many companies who are stepping forward and making indications that they will be making decisions soon on going forward with new nuclear plant construction projects.

So I think the outlook looks very good.

NEUGEBAUER: Dr. Todreas, do you have comments on that?

TODREAS: I'm going to leave this to DOE and EPRI. I was the co- chairman of the DOE committee that wrote the road map for nuclear power 2010. I saw it launch, but the execution remains with these people.

NEUGEBAUER: Thank you.

Dr. Garwin?

GARWIN: Yes, well, we need to buy reactors of existing type -- that is, we can't start to work now designing new reactors. So if they're not ready for a decision, we should not consider them in the near-term expansion. What we're talking about here in GNEP is beyond that. The particular part of it is the waste reduction by reprocessing, recycle with this great new gamble of a big, fast reactor population.

That we need to think about and design and design and design, because we can't make those decisions right now if we're not going to lock ourselves in to a high-cost structure that will have to be abandoned.

MODEEN: Sir, let me answer several ways. First, what Congress has done with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 certainly took a lot of the investment risk off from the utilities. Second piece, is, and I would agree with Mr. Johnson, the NP 2010 initiative is very, very important.

Some concern, I believe, Skip Bowman from NEI testified relative to the funding -- a little bit of plus up on that, it took a bit of a hit there with the potential GNEP proposal. Yucca Mountain can't lose sight of that.

It's those things -- and I think we all know what they are, and we're working through them. In that regard, I would say that just so my remarks aren't misspoken, in the area of advanced light water reactors, the industry and the government since the late '80s has worked very well in a public-private partnership for anticipating and have a strong desire to do something similar both for the high temperature reactor for hydrogen emission, as well as then what may come out of GNEP.

Just a couple other points relative to the balance again -- I'm with you on the near-term priorities. The longer-term for GNEP is really more a governmental role, and I think today our members are not ready to cost-share in that activity, but maybe later. On the point of it, I can see -- in our paper, we justify recycling in the 2035 to 2050 time period based on energy and environmental sustainability, not nonproliferation and those types of issues.

But the second point I think it's important to keep in mind -- again, this sort of rush to do something -- is that the fuel supply and take back regime that is at the center of GNEP, in the industry's view, can be sustained via a once-through cycle for quite a few decades. Ultimately, again, one needs to get to the reprocessing, recycling. That's why it's important to start and complete the research today, but again, it's that timing issue.

NEUGEBAUER: Thank you.

BIGGERT: Thank you.

The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Green, is recognized.

GREEN: Thank you, Madam Chairlady, and I thank the ranking member, as well.

Thank you for this opportunity to explore some new concepts, I suppose. If we complete this project 100 percent, what percent of our electricity needed will be impacted?

Dr. Johnson?

JOHNSON: Sir, I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you to that particular...

GREEN: Right now, we right now get about 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear reactors.

JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

GREEN: If we can successfully complete this project, what percent of our needs will be satisfied?

JOHNSON: I can't give you a percentage, but let me answer your question in a slightly different way. What this technology demonstration program we're talking about this morning is focused on addressing issues associated with the spent fuel that is generated...


GREEN: I appreciate your comments -- your commentary.

Does anyone on the panel have an answer for me?

GARWIN: It's just a different way of doing business. The cost will go up. So if you're price conscious, you'll use less electricity, less nuclear electricity...

GREEN: Yes, sir. So we'll be at the 20 percent level still?

GARWIN: Well, one hopes to double the amount of electricity and increase the fraction that is supplied from nuclear, but that's not at all dependent on this program. That can be done with the thermal reactors, the light water reactors...


GREEN: Let me go...

GARWIN: ...high temperature reactors...

GREEN: Thank you very much. Let me go on with some additional observations. DOE Secretary Bodman concedes that GNEP may ultimately call for an investment of $20 to $40 billion, and this is for construction of three facilities, and annual operating costs can run into the billions. Deployment and operation of additional required reprocessing plants and a fleet of fast reactors and associated pyroprocessing facilities could cost over $200 billion. This would put GNEP in the realm of the U.S. space program in terms of long-term cost.

Building two full-scale spent fuel reprocessing plants could cost $40 to $80 billion. At an estimated price of $3 to $5 billion each, deployment of a fleet of these new fast reactors could easily cost over $100 billion. My concern is this, where will the money come from? Where's the sense of shared sacrifice in this country?

Right now, we are talking about, over the next five years, cutting education $45.3 billion; health about $18 billion; income security, which includes housing and child care, $14.9 billion; mandatory spending, which includes Medicare, Medicaid, $65 billion. We don't have a good sense of shared sacrifice with this administration. This administration cuts Head Start, cuts Social Security, cuts Medicare, cuts student loans, and we send people to the moon, or we send people to the outer realm of the galaxy at some point, hopefully.

And I support good scientific programs -- I want to see us do the smart things, but there has to be some sense of shared sacrifice, and that's what missing in all of this. We talk about spending all of these hundreds of billions of dollars, possibly in the trillions, as we go through this over the long term, but we don't talk about who's going to sacrifice for it. And I believe that there ought to be some shared sacrifice.

We cannot continue to expect the least, the last and the lost to pay for space programs and to pay for nuclear programs. These have to be shared by the well-to-do, the well off, and the well healed. It has to be something that we all, at some point, understand is needed and, we're all willing to sacrifice to have.

And I commend you on what you're telling us in terms of where we must go. Clearly, it's something it's something we can't afford to do and we cannot afford to do -- meaning we must do it at some cost, but there has to be some sense of shared sacrifice. And my consternation with all of this has to do with who's going to pay for it?

Can we all pay for it, or will some members of society pay for it? That causes me great consternation, and I really don't think that that's something that I have you respond to. It's something that the American people probably want someone here in Congress to say, and I just happen to be the guy who feels that it has to be said.

I just believe there ought to be some sense of shared sacrifice that this administration has not embraced.

And I thank you for the time, Madam Chairlady. I yield back.

BIGGERT: Thank you.

The gentleman from California, Mr. Rohrabacher, is recognized.

ROHRABACHER: Thank you very much. And I'd like to thank Chairwoman Biggert for letting me participate today.

Just one note (OFF-MIKE) colleague and friend who just made several good points about costs, and some of the numbers are staggering that we're talking about. But note that in terms of the costs that you were referring to about the reductions that are being proposed, we are not talking about cutting spending in the areas that you outlined, we're talking about reducing the growth in the budget in those areas.

That's a big difference between saying we're going to cut the various programs by so much money as differentiated from cutting the growth in those programs by that much money.

But the point he's making of course, however, is valid in terms of the staggering costs and who's going to pay for it. I think we all need to understand that if there is an energy shortage, as energy becomes in short supply, however that comes about, the electric bills of the American people will go up and the energy bills of the American people will go up to the point that it is costing us those billions of dollars anyway.

And there is a shared sacrifice in that, but it would be much better for us to invest and make sure that those energy prices don't go up so that revenue isn't being siphoned out of the pockets of the American people...

GREEN: Would the gentleman yield for...


GREEN:... just one minute?


GREEN: And I thank you for the time. Given that this appears to be a risky investment at best, when you compare UREX Plus to PUREX, when PUREX is producing about the same thing that we hope to get from UREX Plus, maybe we'll exceed it -- obviously, we hope to -- that causes me concern. And then when you couple that with the fact that -- I agree with you, we're cutting not actual costs but projections, I agree with you.

But the truth of the matter is, these things that are being cut back on, as you stated, are needed things. We're not dispensing with things that are not needed.

This is a country, the richest country in the world -- one out of every 110 persons is a millionaire -- and we're giving tax breaks to millionaires at the expense of these programs. There has to be a point at which we decide that we've got to debate this question of where's the money coming from and will there be the shared sacrifice.

I yield back, thank you, sir.

ROHRABACHER: Well, I think we both appreciate that in this democracy we come at problems very sincerely from two different points of view, and of course the Republican point of view is if you would tax that money away from millionaires, they wouldn't have the money to invest and our economy would be growing at a lesser rate and there would be less federal revenue for the very programs that we're talking about.

So it's a difference of approach of analyzing that differentiates Republicans.

I do need to make one serious point here about energy before I would get back and forth and I appreciate...

GREEN: Well, I thank you for the time.


I'm on the International Relations Committee and I'm, of course, on the Science Committee, and other subcommittees than this one, but I have a keen interest in terms of the president's proposal to expand nuclear power with, for example, India and other countries that he now has decided will be an administration initiative.

And so this is really an important hearing that we're having today -- not only domestically, but internationally of course.

I would like to get the panel's reaction to the new high temperature helium gas reactor technology; that's high temperature helium gas reactor technology. And from what I understand, that it has the ability to reduce the production of weapons-type grade plutonium, which is plutonium, I guess, 239 -- that it produces 95 percent less of that as compared to the other alternative nuclear reactors.

And especially when it is used, and in terms of using that reactor for the production of hydrogen. And is this something you've looked at? I'd like the panel's impressions of that.

And also, if you have not looked at, or have other thoughts that are more extensive, if you could send me personally a letter of your analysis in writing of this technology.

JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

BIGGERT: If we could -- briefly please.

JOHNSON: Within the department's nuclear R&D program and our Generation-4 (ph) account, we are sponsoring research on high temperature gas reactor technology development, which includes both fuel development, material evaluations. And as you may know, there's a large provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for the development and the deployment...


ROHRABACHER: Let's cut to the chase, because we've got to -- time. Is it a thumbs up, thumbs down or don't know about the -- and the General Atomics has built one of these reactors in Japan. Have we studied it? Is it good? Is it a positive reaction, or we haven't studied it, or is it a negative reaction?

JOHNSON: I'd say -- it's been studied, and favorably disposed to the technology.


TODREAS: It's a thermal versus a fast reactor. So its transmutation characteristics are different. I'd say it's like this with a little bit up, in your terminology, but it's not a slam-dunk and I wouldn't jump on it yet. We've got to study it first.

ROHRABACHER: And I would appreciate more in-depth analysis in writing, please.

TODREAS: Yes, sir.

GARWIN: What's important in the near term is to be able to buy electric power generation capability. This modular high temperature gas reactor -- gas turbine reactor -- has been a long time in coming and I would really like to see it take its place in the market because that's what's most important. You would use it first in the once- through process -- would not be a proliferation risk at all -- and then it has a role as a moderate transuranic burner, which could easily demand on the repository if it were fed with light water reprocessed fuel, but that would be a long time in the future, I hope.

ROHRABACHER: Sounds like you're giving it thumbs up.

GARWIN: I'm a thumbs up.


MODEEN: From the industry perspective, the advanced light water reactors are optimized for electricity generation. We expect as we deploy those, that they'll be the reactor of choice for quite a few decades to come.

However, we also are interested in the high temperature gas reactors because of that hydrogen mission. I think the commercial deployment -- really it remains to be seen as, I think, we see more consolidation on energy companies that utilities may mesh with natural gas companies and that sort of thing.

But we also believe it's very promising.

ROHRABACHER: But you're giving it a that way and...


MODEEN: A longer time, but thumbs up.

ROHRABACHER: A more detailed analysis -- you could give me in writing, I'd appreciate it very much.

Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.

BIGGERT: OK. Thank you. I think we're back on track. As a reminder, the purpose of the hearing is to solve the waste problem so we can expand the use of nuclear energy beyond 20 percent.

And with that the gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Davis, is recognized.

DAVIS: Thank you, Chairwoman Biggert, and Ranking Member Honda, for having this event today -- this meeting today -- and for those who are present that are giving testimony. I would like to read a statement as well as ask a question.

Before I get into the issues at hand I'd like to express my support for nuclear energy in this country. As America has become more addicted to fossil fuels that pollute our air and water, I believe nuclear energy can play a major role in our country's future energy needs.

Opponents of nuclear energy argue, quite frankly, that it's unsafe. And with that mindset, America has not ordered a new nuclear energy plant in over 25 years. However, over time the Navy has acquired over 80 vessels that contain nuclear reactors. To date, there have been no instances reported on any of these 80 plus vessels and none of the crew on these ships has become ill from serving on them, nor do any of them glow in the dark.

So clearly the technology exists that can make nuclear power safe. It is my hope once we solve the nuclear waste question, we can add more nuclear power to the nation's grids.

Now I've got some concerns.

While I believe that nuclear energy needs to play a major role in our energy future, I also have serious reservations about the GNEP proposal. My main concern stems from the fact that, I believe, it appears a majority of important decisions about this program have already been made, such as site locations, specific technologies that can be used for GNEP -- France, Japan have technologies.

These possible actions concern me because I believe they have excluded the expertise of energy leaders and scientists who are at the forefront of nuclear energy. I believe for this program to be successful, we must include all experts and not just a selective few.

As you probably know, Oak Ridge National Lab is located near my district and employs some of the brightest and most experienced scientists on nuclear technology.

For years, Oak Ridge has been at the forefront of developing and maintaining nuclear programs for the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. However, to my knowledge, no one from Oak Ridge was involved in the development of GNEP.

To me, it makes sense to have people involved that have a clear and long history of working within this field and to help plan the future of this technology.

I have some concerns and I believe we must act now to deal with nuclear waste and the successful expansion of nuclear energy in America. And my hope was is that today's hearings would help relieve some of those concerns.

A question I have, Mr. Johnson, what is the technical and programmatic basis for the technology that has apparently been used to choose the technology and the site locations as you went through the process? And then secondly, to follow up, do these choices represent a consensus among the industry and the technical communities?

JOHNSON: Thank you, sir. Let me say right off the bat, there have been no decisions made on siting any of these facilities at any location. Contrary to what may have been written...


DAVIS: I'm sorry. Reclaim my time. I just read what has been written, and you are saying those are not true.

JOHNSON: I'm saying that is not true.

DAVIS: I'm relieved.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

With respect to the specific technologies and the basis for what we're proposing, is all based on work that has been done in our laboratories over the last four to five years, and work that was performed, in large part, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory with respect to certain parts of the UREX Plus separations process.

Between the work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Argonne National Laboratory and the Idaho National Laboratory, we feel very confident that this is a process that is worthy of continued investigation and moving it out of the laboratory into a larger-scale process so that we can better understand the physical phenomena at a larger scale before embarking on decisions to commercialize the technology.

With respect to the consensus within the industry or the scientific community, I would safely say there is not consensus, much like there is not consensus on many issues of a technical nature or any other nature for that matter. But it is -- where we are represents the best thought and experience that the department has within its laboratory complex.

DAVIS: Reclaiming my time. I've always felt that science was pretty exact. So it would seem to me that we're talking about some pretty exact technology and there should be a consensus developed before we start talking about spending billions of dollars on the new technology that should be scientifically exact.

BIGGERT: Thank you, Mr. Davis.

And let me just say that I too share your concern that we use all of the research and the knowledge of all of the laboratories in searching out this question, not just the lead laboratory at Idaho.

And with that, the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Schwarz, is recognized.

SCHWARZ: Very briefly, could we be talking about the reprocessing in this country right now for commercial use because of the need to get additional electric generating power online, or should we building once-through cycle nuclear electric power plants, get them up and running as soon as possible?

And should we be dealing with reprocessing because of the products of reprocessing and the fact that one of those is plutonium and could get into the wrong hands and be enriched and used for the construction of weapons?

So I understand Japan, France, probably other countries are reprocessing -- now Russia -- should we be in that at all? If so, briefly why, to a layperson in this like myself that I can explain to people back in Michigan. And if not, should we get going right away on building nuclear plants that are once-through cycled uranium plants?


JOHNSON: Yes, with respect to near-term deployment of new light water reactor plants to add to the base load capacity of our country -- yes, the department is working cooperatively with industry on that and we remain very optimistic we'll see new plants in the not-to- distant future.

With respect to the question on recycling spent nuclear fuel, we are not coming before the Congress saying we are embarking on commercial reprocessing technology and advocating we move forward with commercial deployment of this.

What we are doing, is we're asking to accelerate work that's already been going on within our research and development programs to take the research on the recycling technologies to the next phase of demonstration, such that we can make a better and a more fully informed decision on this technology should a subsequent decision be made to embark on recycling of spent nuclear fuel.

TODREAS: In my mind, there's two reasons we should embark on R&D and knowledge in recycling. We definitely have to launch and secure light water reactors, but if you aim -- first reason -- if you aim for the year 2050 and you want to keep 20 percent nuclear, you've got to expand nuclear by a factor of three in this country. And if you keep 20 percent, you can displace a quarter of the greenhouse gas that would otherwise be generated as extra between now and 2050. That's the motivation.

If you get to 2050 with that kind of nuclear expansion, you need to move the nuclear fuel cycle to really robust ways to deal with the waste, so you need options.

The other reason now to have an R&D program is to have an influence in the world and in our own evolution. You've got to have technical knowledge to be credible for the evolution of commercial and nuclear power in the world -- this is Europe, Japan, Russia -- you've got to have that knowledge to develop effective safeguards for reprocessing plants that others being built.

And third, we've got to make judgments on what to do with recycling and reprocessing in this country. If we don't get in it and do R&D and get knowledgeable, we're going to be at zero relative to the ability to do those judgments.

SCHWARZ: Thank you. I yield back.

BIGGERT: Thank you.

SCHWARZ: If no one else has a comment, I yield back.

BIGGERT: The gentlelady from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee?

JACKSON LEE: I thank the chairwoman very much and for this hearing.

This is a mountain of issues. Let me say that I am slowly trying to refocus and redesign my position on nuclear energy based upon where we are today.

I obviously come from the energy capital of the world that has been premised on oil and gas in Houston, Texas, but by the very nature that the term is energy, I expect that many of the corporations that I represent will be looking at a lot of alternative issues -- alternative fuels and certainly nuclear will be something of concern.

While I'm in the mode of addressing the question of the magnitude of this challenge, particularly with the apprehension of many that the excessive use of nuclear energy leaves in the marketplace materials that could be used for weapons of mass destruction and may not, as well, be environmentally safe, let me pose these questions on this particular project.

And as a backdrop, let me say that I am not a fan Yucca Mountain and I'm not a fan of it because I question whether the capacity is such that it would be able to hold all the fuel necessary, particularly if the current fleet of more than 100 power reactors operates for normal plant lines.

But if we are to look at this proposal that the president has offered, I wanted to ask the question, Dr. Garwin, is this realistic in and of itself? The GNEP program, particularly the magnitude that this program -- or this demonstration project -- would offer, 200 tons, I think, as opposed to 20 tons per year. Help me understand, from your perspective, how realistic this is and, as an oversight committee, instruct us on this particular proposal.

What should be the, in this year, the criteria or the limitations that we should raise on this particular program? And you might add the cost as well.

GARWIN: If something is not worth doing...


BIGGERT: Sir, the bells are calling us for a hearing and I think we've got one more questioner. So if everybody can answer briefly so we can have the last question and then you won't have to wait for us to come back from several votes.

GARWIN: If something is not worth doing, it's not worth doing well. So the question is, to what extent is GNEP, that is the recycle -- the reprocessing and burning -- worth doing?

It has one principal function. It saves repository space. We need the systems analysis tool or some good decision making to tell us how much repository space costs. And we can buy it not only in the expansion of Yucca Mountain that the president has sent now to the Congress with the request to expand it, but we can buy repository space elsewhere.

Now, Mr. Davis also asked about science -- the exactness of the science. We need this analysis tool so that we just don't have to build things of larger scale, so we can design them differently, so we can simulate them, so that when we build, we know pretty well that it's going to work and then we will have a cheaper and simpler program...

JACKSON LEE: But if I may, Dr. Garwin, since I know my time is short, your assessment of the GNEP program demonstration and the size of it, is that workable versus a smaller demonstration and do you see the cost worthy of the ultimate process? And this is on the reprocessing.

GARWIN: Well, this is reprocessing of light water reactor fuel -- that's easy; we don't need UREX, we could do PUREX. But we should do more research on UREX. We don't need to scale it up, we need to have the people out there at Argonne put their minds to understanding their process better so they can scale that up on paper and do critical experiments.

JACKSON LEE: So we don't need UREX?

GARWIN: No, the critical point is the reprocessing of the fast reactor fuel. That has to happen many, many times compared with once for the light water reactor fuel, and that's the big uncertainty. This complex of design, fuel form, of reprocessing...


JACKSON LEE: Can PUREX be made safely?

GARWIN: PUREX, we'll do it safely, yes, it's established and we can wait. The main thing is that we can wait to reprocess light water reactor fuel until we've been through the fast reactors so that we have fuel to put into them.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you.

BIGGERT: Thank you.

The gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Inglis?

INGLIS: First of all, I'd like to congratulate the chair on holding this hearing. It's an important hearing. It's important for us to develop consensus as to energy alternatives, and surely nuclear seems to be one very attractive alternative that we've got.

I was interested in Mr. Rohrabacher's question earlier about high temperature reactors. I was aware of their possibilities for the production of hydrogen. I wasn't aware that there was some benefit in terms of nonproliferation.

Can somebody explain that to me? Perhaps it's already been explained, but it would be interesting to know if there is in fact a benefit as to nonproliferation with a high temperature reactor.

Mr. Johnson is that or...


TODREAS: Just quickly. Thermal reactors, as well as fast reactors, can transmute -- meaning destroy actinides, meaning destroy plutonium. There's technical differences about downstream effects in other isotopes, but they can both do it. And so the gas reactor is in the competition to have a role in that aspect.

Is that enough?

INGLIS: I think so. I'll look forward to -- anybody else want to help me out there?

Now, Mr. Modeen, I was concerned that it didn't sound like the utilities were going to exactly be excited that possibility of a high temperature reactor, particularly for a potential new business for them called hydrogen. And of course, if they're not interested, I suppose there are other people that are interested in other technologies by way of how to produce that and get in that business.

It seems to me that utilities, though, have an opportunity. They may miss the opportunity. The railroads missed the opportunity to become airlines. So did I hear some indication that maybe utilities are going to miss their opportunity to become the hydrogen commodity suppliers?

MODEEN: No, I don't think you heard that. I think it's a matter of sequence and priorities. And, again, the very first is we need to continue to focus on the current plants, we need to deploy this next generation of advanced light water reactors, and we really need to address Yucca Mountain. I think those are the top three for the commercial utility industry -- no question about that.

The next, I think, in that series from our perspective really is high temperature gas reactors, a hydrogen mission. I happen to have in the EPRI program a very small budget for that, but we've had leading utilities -- Entergy, I think, is probably the most public of them so I'll mention them here -- where we've taken a part of our program to really understand what has been going on in the rest of the world, commercially as well as at the labs, and try to compare and contrast that in deployment time frames for that mission.

But it's just really a matter of what's your core business and still right now it's really looking at electricity generation and the advanced light water reactors are really optimized for that and that's where we're putting most of our effort.

INGLIS: Is it fair to say, Mr. Johnson, is that that's a role for the government? If the utilities are concerned about investing money at this point in developing high temperature reactors, particularly in getting into the hydrogen business, is it because there are additional breakthroughs that are needed and that's a role for us in government to fund? Would that be accurate?

JOHNSON: Yes, sir, I believe so. There are some technical risks -- or technical questions that need to be resolved and I think that's an appropriate role for the government in terms of some of these high temperature operating regimes that we have very little experience in.

INGLIS: And how many years do you think that's away? Take a guess.

JOHNSON: Well, the gas reactor technology is in operation today in other countries. And depending on the -- going from where the gas reactors are in operation today, going to the higher temperature reactors is probably, you know, 10 years minimum.

But the gas reactor technology is pretty well understood. It's going to the higher temperatures for the hydrogen production mission that introduces some technical uncertainties.

INGLIS: I yield back.

BIGGERT: Thank you.

I recognize Mr. Honda for 30 seconds for a yes/no question.

HONDA: Thank you very much. And having heard Dr. Todreas talk about the road map, I guess we're going to need a GPS.

My question is, I get the sense that the department has gone down the road to some decision-making process and it appears that the discussion has not been as broad as I think it should be.

I'd like to discuss with my colleagues and the chairwoman here the possibility of expanding the process and looking at some sort of independent panel review that would be a little bit more broad, and also discuss not only GNEP, but also some of the economic analyses of the plan.

And there appears to be other approaches to the issue of spent fuel, so I'd like to hear more of that, too, so that we can get a better feel of it.

And, Madam Chair, I really appreciated this hearing today because it has really opened up and put more into focus the need for more understanding because not only does it speak to UREX or to reprocessing or to other decisions, but also speaks to some of the foreign policy decisions Congress has to make.

BIGGERT: Mr. Honda, I'm going have to cut you off because we have to adjourn this meeting. I think that -- keep in mind that we do have and have requested the systems analysis, which I think will help with that.

The other thing I think that we do need and we will schedule would be some briefings with our members so that we can come in and really have a discussion.

We also have plans for other hearings on this. We've had one on the nuclear proliferation, one on the cost and this has been on the waste products. So I think that, you know, this is one of many hearings that we will have. But I think it would be important for a briefing for our members too.

So before we bring this hearing to a close, I want to thank our panelists for testifying before this subcommittee today. If there is no objection, the record will remain open for additional statements from the members and for answers to any follow-up questions the subcommittee may ask for from the panelists. So without objection, so ordered.

This hearing is now adjourned.



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