The Obama administration solidified its plans today to kill the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository while seeking new increases for science and renewable-energy programs in a proposed $26.4 billion Energy Department budget for fiscal 2010.

The total proposal is essentially flat compared to current DoE funding. But that does not include nearly $40 billion showered on the department from the stimulus law for alternative-energy and efficiency initiatives.

The White House's budget summaries cite $38.7 billion in stimulus cash steered to and through DoE in 2009-2010. DoE has already made several funding announcements and solicitations in areas such as science and biofuels.

Instead of funding Yucca Mountain, the proposed budget would provide almost $197 million for exploring alternatives to the proposed Nevada waste site. All funding for Yucca development would end, the White House says, because President Obama has "made clear that the nation needs a better solution" for disposing high-level nuclear waste.

"Such a solution must be based on sound science and capable of securing broad support, including support from those who live in areas that might be affected by the solution," the White House said in a document outlining proposed cuts. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is forming a "blue ribbon" commission to weigh nuclear-waste solutions.

The budget proposal does help continue the Yucca licensing proceeding before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But DoE has called this a way to help understand NRC's views on radiation standards and other issues, not an effort to proceed with Yucca.

Overall, the budget would increase funding for a many renewable-energy and efficiency programs. The budget requests $2.32 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Solar energy programs in that office would see a major boost, receiving $320 million, while programs including wind, building and industrial efficiency, advanced vehicle technologies and others would also receive boosts.

Specific proposed funding levels include $75 million for wind energy; $235 million for bio-energy; and $334 million for vehicle technologies.

Science, nuclear

The proposal also increases funding for the Office of Science, which Chu has said will be a top priority.

The plan would provide $4.94 billion for the office, boosting programs in basic energy sciences and other areas. The current-year funding is $4.77 billion, although the stimulus also provided $1.6 billion for this year.

Elsewhere, the plan would trim spending on nuclear energy research programs somewhat, proposing $762 million, compared with $792 million in current year spending.

The plan seeks to phase out the Nuclear Power 2010 program, a cost-share partnership with industry to help navigate the nuclear power plant licensing process as the sector seeks to build the first new reactors in decades. The budget would provide $20 million and notes there is evidence that the program has helped promote interest in new reactors, citing 17 applications NRC has received to build 26 new reactors.

The proposal also would end funding for the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative.

The plan boosts funding, however, for the Generation IV program that supports multinational research and development for next-generation reactors and also would increase funding for fuel-cycle research and development within DoE's nuclear energy office.

In another area, the proposed budget would provide almost $5.5 billion in new appropriations for DoE's environmental cleanup programs to address contamination from Cold War nuclear weapons production. Those programs also received more than $5 billion in the stimulus law.

Reduced spending for 'clean coal' research

The White House spending plan cuts funding for DoE's fossil-energy program, directing funds toward "clean coal" projects and eliminating spending for oil technology research.

The 2010 proposal of $618 million is significantly less than 2009 spending. But the program received an additional $3.4 billion in stimulus funds earlier this year.

The spending plan completely cuts funding for the oil research and development program on grounds that the private-sector oil industry should pay for the technology developments that provide little public benefit. The Obama administration also proposes to end funding to the mandatory oil and gas R&D program authorized by the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

This year's spending plan is focused on carbon capture and storage technologies and gas hydrate research.

Proposed repeal of oil-industry tax breaks

White House budget documents re-emphasize Obama's proposals to end billions of dollars in oil industry tax breaks – plans that face stiff resistance on Capitol Hill from oil-state Democrats and most Republicans.

The biggest proposal would end the oil and gas industry's ability to claim the Section 199 domestic-manufacturing deduction, worth an estimated $13.3 billion over a decade. Overall, the plan would end more than $26 billion in industry incentives over a decade.

"The oil and gas subsidies are costly to the American taxpayer and do little to incentivize production or reduce energy prices," the White House says in a document listing programs the administration wants to end.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500