FYI: Science Policy News

FY 2016 Appropriations: Department of Energy Nuclear Programs Get Big Boost

DEC 22, 2015
The annual spending law for FY 2016 increases spending at the National Nuclear Security Administration by 9.9 percent over FY 2015 levels and the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy by 8.0 percent. The law also provides direction on nuclear research, development, and safety matters, including the medical isotope molybdenum-99, inertial confinement fusion energy, advanced reactor concepts, and used nuclear fuel disposition.
Former Director of FYI

On Dec. 18, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the final FY 2016 annual spending bill. As FYI reported last Wednesday , the law appropriates $1.15 trillion in discretionary spending obligations and finalizes funding levels for the nation’s major science agencies, offices and programs through the end of September 2016, including for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Office of Nuclear Energy.

The NNSA section of the spending bill can be found on pages 418-420, and the Office of Nuclear Energy section can be found on page 411. Congress’ guidance for NNSA’s spending can be found on pages 36-38 of the bill’s joint explanatory statement , and its guidance for the Office of Nuclear Energy can be found on pages 28-30.

Department / Agency / Office / Account

FY14 enacted

FY15 enacted

FY16 President’s request

FY16 enacted

Change between FY15 and FY16

Department of Energy






National Nuclear Security Administration






Weapons Activities






Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation






Naval Reactors






Nuclear Energy






* Figures in millions of U.S. dollars

As the table above shows, the NNSA is slated for a robust 9.9 percent increase in spending between FY 2015 and FY 2016. Within that amount, year-over-year increases for Weapons Activities, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, and Naval Reactors are all large. The Office of Nuclear Energy also is receiving a major year-over-year increase of 8.0 percent. These increases are all higher than the 5.2 percent increase in overall federal discretionary spending in FY 2016, an indication that the budget process this year has been favorable to nuclear energy research, development, and safety.

In other highlights for nuclear energy research, development, and safety, Congress’ guidance in the FY 2016 spending bill:

National Nuclear Security Administration – Weapons Activities

  • Provides $250 million for Strategic Materials Sustainment “to consolidate funding for activities needed to manage the NNSA’s inventory of strategic materials”;
  • Provides $45.7 million for advanced radiography;
  • Provides $511.1 million for inertial confinement fusion research, $329 million of which is for the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, $69 million of which is for the Omega Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and $7 million of which is for the Naval Research Laboratory;
  • Provides $430 million for the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.;
  • Provides $682.9 million for Defense Nuclear Security;

National Nuclear Security Administration - Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation

  • Provides $86.6 million for Material Disposition;
  • Provides $340 million for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility , for the purpose of disposing of surplus weapon-grade plutonium;
  • Directs the NNSA to fund projects authorized by the American Medical Isotopes Production Act in order to develop domestic supplies of the medical isotope Molybdenum-99 to meet public health needs, and ensure the deployment of two or more domestic sources of Mo-99 into commercial distribution by 2019;

National Nuclear Security Administration - Naval Reactors

  • Provides $446.9 million for Naval Reactors Development , to provide militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants;
  • Provides $5 million to “start a technical program to develop and qualify a low enriched uranium fuel system for naval reactor cores”;

Office of Nuclear Energy

  • Provides $111.6 million for the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies Program ;
  • Provides $27.2 million for Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation , to help predict the performance, reliability and economics of advanced nuclear power plants;
  • Provides $24.3 million for the Modeling and Simulation Energy Innovation Hub ;
  • Provides $41.1 million for the Nuclear Science User Facilities , which provides external research teams cost-free access capabilities at Idaho National Laboratory and elsewhere;
  • With respect to small modular reactor licensing, asks the DOE to provide assistance to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in order to resolve technical and regulatory matters in time for a 2023 commercialization date;
  • Provides $141.7 million for Reactor Concepts Research and Development, directing the DOE to focus “on technologies that show clear potential to be safe, less waste producing, more cost competitive, and more proliferation-resistant than existing nuclear power technologies”;
  • Provides $40 million for the Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program;
  • Provides $99.7 million for Advanced Reactor Technologies ;
  • Provides $62.1 million for the Advanced Fuels program “to continue implementation of accident tolerant fuels development”;
  • Provides $85 million for Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition Research and Development ; and
  • With respect to used nuclear fuel disposition, directs DOE to:

    …continue generic research and development activities on the behavior of spent fuel in long-term storage, under transportation conditions, and in various geologic media. The Department is directed to support research and development of advanced sensors, online monitoring, and other non-destructive evaluation and examination technologies and to prioritize the ongoing study of the performance of high burnup fuel in dry storage and the potential for direct disposal of existing spent fuel dry storage canister technologies.

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