The budget proposal for 2021 by Donald Trump highlights $1.2 billion for research and development of nuclear energy and programs related to it. That’s more than the $824 million Trump prospected in his budget the previous year. Even with the hefty increase in requested funds, the amount still lags behind the $1.5 billion that Congress assigned for nuclear energy last year.
“An issue of national security”
Trump sold the bump in funding as a method to boost “revitalization of the domestic industry and the ability of domestic technologies to compete abroad.” His administration also wishes to amplify uranium production in the US, calling it “an issue of national security.”
Since taking office, maintaining the nuclear reactors to online mode has been a priority for Trump. He signed two bills for speeding up the development of advanced and improved nuclear reactors and aligned the allowing processes. He’s also assigned funds, consisting of $300 million in this year’s proposal, for a Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) meant to test and develop improved reactor fuels and materials. Currently, nuclear power makes up 20 percent of the US energy mix and provide about half of its carbon-free electricity. However, nuclear energy has struggled to achieve a larger foothold in the country.
The Verge reported that Steven Cohen, former executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said in an email, “I personally do not see nuclear power as a way around the production of greenhouse gas emissions.” Adding to it he said, “On the other hand, scientific research on nuclear energy as well as other forms of energy and energy storage should be a high priority for our national labs and research universities.”
Among environmentalists and Democrats, amplifying nuclear power as a possible climate change fix has continued to be a divisive, hot-button issue. According to fans, the technology is now a lot safer than its prior versions, and that it’s a crucial tool alongside wind and solar in the fight to stop climate change. Derogators aim at the high costs of nuclear energy and highlight that the US is still unaware of the management of its nuclear waste.
Last week, Trump supposedly backed away from a prospected waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which has been controversial ever since it was proposed in 1987. The proposed dump for radioactive waste is like political kryptonite for a candidate who might want the state’s votes (Trump lost Nevada in 2016). “Nevada, I hear you on Yucca Mountain and my Administration will RESPECT you!” Trump tweeted on February 6th. “My Administration is committed to exploring innovative approaches – I’m confident we can get it done!” Previously, Trump had requested for funds to finish the nuclear waste warehouse in previous budget proposals.
While environmentalists are debating about the merits and demerits of nuclear energy, Trump does not appear to be supporting nuclear as a specific environmental priority. His budget proposal also cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by 26 percent.
The $4.8 trillion budget proposal by Trump still needs to pave its way through Congress, where it’s probably going to face a fight. However, there has been binary support for nuclear energy in the past. Last year, Congress increased the 2020 budget for nuclear energy by nearly $700 million.
Hello, I’m Anna Yeo. If you like my news coverage, please drop a good word in my inbox. I’m journalist by profession and have been part of many major reporting across the globe. I like to write crisp and factual news. I have completed my masters degree in journalism. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]