The Trump administration’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget includes an 11 percent cut to the Department of Energy, the federal agency that manages Idaho National Laboratory.
INL would lose significant funding, especially for nuclear energy research and waste cleanup projects, under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, although the budget likely will be reworked once it goes to Congress.
The total proposed 2020 Department of Energy budget is $31.7 billion, down $35.5 billion from 2019.
Congress has the final say on budget allocations, which would take effect Oct. 1.
The president’s 2020 budget would cut nuclear energy funding by 38 percent to $824 million. INL is the nation’s leading nuclear energy research lab.
Last year, the Trump Administration proposed a $757 million nuclear energy budget. Congress enacted a $1.3 billion budget.
John Grossenbacher, former INL director, said the minimum funding needed to support U.S. nuclear energy operations is about $1 billion.
“That would be enough resources to sustain facilities at INL and research programs and facilities at other labs,” he said. “If it’s below $1 billion, then it’s tough. From my experience, I would call that a disappointing budget request.”
A major cut in nuclear energy funding would come from nuclear fuel cycle research and development; INL is the main lab where such research takes place. Nuclear fuel cycle funding would be cut by 66 percent, from $264 million to $90 million.
Another cut is in Idaho facilities management, the account used for maintenance and operations at Idaho DOE facilities. Facilities management would see a 34 percent cut, from $318 million to $209 million.
Nuclear energy enabling technologies also would lose significant funding. A proposed 36 percent cut would decrease the program’s funding from $153 million to $98.5 million.
Some nuclear waste cleanup sites throughout the country, including INL, would see a significant funding cut in the president’s proposed budget.
The Office of Environmental Management funds cleanup projects, such as the Idaho Cleanup Project, an effort to safely remove spent nuclear fuel and other toxic materials at DOE’s desert site, west of Idaho Falls.
Environmental Management, which received $7.2 billion in 2019, is responsible for the cleanup of millions of gallons of liquid radioactive waste, thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and other contaminated waste and soil at 16 sites in 11 U.S. states.
Environmental Management funding would see a 10 percent decrease, down to $6.5 billion, under Trump’s 2020 budget.
The budgeting process now moves to Congress, where the House Appropriations Committee and subcommittees dedicated to specific departments will take over budget writing.
“Everyone knows the process,” Grossenbacher said. “Congress gets to decide the budget.”