Democratic News

             Let me open today’s hearing on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership by thanking the witnesses for taking the time today out of their busy schedules to testify. 
            The purpose of today’s hearing is to understand the Department of Energy’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership or GNEP from both policy and programmatic viewpoints.
            From 2000 to 2006, the Department conducted a research program, which was the predecessor to the GNEP program, called the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative or AFCI.  This program performed research on spent fuel separations technologies that might make it possible to reduce the volume and heat load in a spent fuel geologic repository.  The program had good support and was authorized as a research, development and demonstration program in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  It is my understanding there were promising bench-scale technologies and that for Fiscal Year 2007 the program would begin to scale up to a demonstration phase.
            Thus it came as a surprise when for Fiscal Year 2007, the GNEP program was proposed with a budget nearly three times the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative at $243 million by proposing to begin engineering design of a spent fuel separations plant, a fast reactor and a fuel R&D facility all not coming on line until the 2020-2030 timeframe. 
            The GNEP program seems to have undergone shifts since it was presented to the Congress in February 2006, from deploying advanced separation technologies in the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative to requests from industry for near-term technologies that primarily separate plutonium.  I would like to learn about the evolution of the program and the impact it will have on our spent fuel policy.
           The National Academies of Science recently evaluated the GNEP program and they are not at the witness table, let me offer into the record the summary of their recommendations to reflect their hard work.
           Again, let me thank the witnesses for coming today and I look forward to learning from their testimony.
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