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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Reactor may get $40 million from Senate

Associated Press

BOISE – A Senate subcommittee boosted spending Tuesday for a new experimental nuclear reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory, appropriating $40 million toward a project that had been left out of President Bush’s latest budget request.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development approved a $31.2 billion fiscal 2006 spending plan that includes more than $756 million for Idaho projects. The bill goes before the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. If it clears the committee and passes the Senate, it will have to be reconciled with a House-passed version that puts federal energy and water spending at $29.7 billion.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, a member of the energy and water subcommittee, said he was encouraged that the panel agreed to increase spending on the Idaho Advanced Cogeneration Reactor at the nuclear research complex in eastern Idaho.

“The committee recognizes the impact this technology and the reactor will have on our nation,” he said in a statement.

The next-generation reactor would produce electricity as well as commercial quantities of hydrogen. The Bush administration had originally heralded the nuclear-hydrogen reactor as part of its plan for a future of automobiles powered by hydrogen fuel cells rather than gasoline.

But after spending $14.4 million on the Idaho reactor in fiscal 2004 and $25 million in fiscal 2005, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told lawmakers earlier this spring that the administration was backing away from its funding commitment because the $2 billion price tag over the next decade was too high.

Craig gave Bodman a tour of the Department of Energy complex near Idaho Falls earlier this month in an effort to get the Bush administration to reconsider its commitment to the reactor, which could be one of the largest federal public works projects in the country.

The Senate subcommittee’s bill also includes $544 million for cleaning up nuclear waste at the Idaho site, a $13 million increase from President Bush’s request.

Research at INL to develop environmentally stable nuclear fuels would get $85 million and a program to decrease the threat of terrorist attacks on the nation’s electrical power grid would receive $5 million.

Idaho water projects in the new spending bill include $2.4 million for new boat ramps and fishing access at Dworshak Reservoir near Orofino, $2.5 million for improvements at Lucky Peak Reservoir near Boise and $1.8 million for improvements at Albeni Falls Dam in the Idaho Panhandle.