Congressmen demand answers from Obama Administration

Why did nuclear grant bypass Callaway project?

Third District Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and five members of the Missouri delegation in Congress have signed a joint letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu demanding to know why the U.S. Department of Energy failed to fund an application from Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse to design and build small nuclear reactors at the Callaway Energy Center southeast of Fulton.

The bipartisan joint letter to the Obama Administration official is signed by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, Luetkemeyer and five members of Congress from Missouri except Democrats Congressman William Lacy Clay Jr. of St. Louis and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City. The Eighth District seat is now vacant after the resignation of Rep. Jo Ann Emerson.

Last May all members of Congress except Democrats Russ Carnahan and Clay signed a letter to the Department of Energy asking the department to approve Ameren and Westinghouse’s application for a federal grant to help fund small modular reactors at the Callaway Energy Center.

In addition to Blunt, McCaskill and Luetkemeyer, the other Missouri Congressmen signing the letter were Sam Graves, Billy Long, Ann Wagner and Vicky Hartzler.

In their letter to Chu, Missouri’s congressional delegation said they wanted to express their “serious concern with the Department of Energy’s recent decision to make a single award under the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Program. This decision is at odds with the Department of Energy’s justification for the program, and could jeopardize the development of a viable SMR industry in the United States.”

Lutkemeyer and other Missouri delegation members noted that when the Department of Energy sought money from Congress for the program, the department explicitly sought funds to provide support for two utilities to receive funding separately to stimulate marketplace competition.

Even last November when it announced its SMR grant to a project in Tennessee led by Babcock & Wilcox Corporation in partnership with the federal-government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bechtel Corporation, the Department of Energy indicated another commercial grant would be forthcoming.

Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse had received indications they were next in line to receive the second grant.

“It is our understanding,” the Congressional delegation letter states, “that a Westinghouse/Ameren proposal to the SMR Program met or exceeded all of DOE’s criteria to be a successful applicant for SMR funding. However, we did not receive funding. We have yet to be provided a reasonable explanation regarding why DOE did not select the Westinghouse/Ameren proposal, which is perplexing in light of the program’s goal of SMR commercialization.”

The letter states the Missouri delegation has been advised that senior Department of Energy officials have stated that a second SMR funding will not be reaching toward commercial competition but will center on an “innovative design,” ruling out the commercial application from Westinghouse and Ameren Missouri.

The letter states the history of the nuclear industry “is cluttered with ‘innovative’ designs that never came close to successful licensing.”

The letter asks for an answer on why it decided to award only one commercial venture and how it expects this will meet the original plan for commercial competition.

The letter also notes the original application for the award made no mention of innovative design and it did not modify the selection criteria to indicate an interest in this area.

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