April 28, 2017
President Trump’s budget proposal touches upon two important issues for U.S. nuclear power: advanced nuclear energy R&D and a final solution to the country’s commercial spent nuclear fuel. Although the proposed budget earmarked $120 million for the resumption of licensing activities for Yucca Mountain, it also contained reduced spending for energy R&D programs across the board, including nuclear. Although the net impact of these proposals upon nuclear energy is uncertain, the budget request elicits a number of deeper, philosophical questions: the role of government in R&D, the delineation of private and public roles in energy, etc. For the U.S. nuclear industry, the future may rest upon lessons learned from other areas and industries. For example, modularity has been a successful model for many other energy industries, and developers of advanced and unconventional reactor concepts can avoid the possibility of cost overruns and delays through the adoption of modular designs. Further, spent fuel repository siting issues might be able to derive lessons learned from the siting experiences of other industries, such as the fossil fuel industry.