U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is asking federal agencies to provide the funding needed to keep the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program operated at the Kenneth A. Kesselring site in West Milton running at full capacity.
New York’s senior senator contacted Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy, and Ernest Moniz, the secretary of the Department of Energy, urging both to help secure $24 million in funding needed to perform significant maintenance on one of two reactors used for training at the site. In his appeal, Schumer urged both secretaries to find a way to plug this year’s funding gap, so that a more permanent solution can be reached to keep the reactors from facing the budgetary ax in the future.
“This reactor is important to both our national security and to the Capital Region’s economy,” Schumer said in a statement. “We must do everything we can to make sure it stays up and running for the rest of this year and in years to come.”
Schumer suggested the Energy Department could reprogram funds within its own budget to free up the necessary money for the reactor. He also proposed the Defense Department, which oversees the Navy’s budget, could transfer the necessary funds to the Energy Department.
“I made it very clear to both the secretary of the Navy and the secretary of Energy how important this training reactor is to our national security interests,” Schumer said.
The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program provides in-depth technical training to sailors operating the 97 nuclear reactors that provide propulsion to U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and submarines. The two reactors operated by Knolls Atomic Power Lab also provide a test platform allowing the Navy and Energy Department to develop new technologies for nuclear-powered ships in the fleet.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act — a bill passed in January that funds the federal operations until October — shorted funding for Naval Reactors, a U.S. government office responsible for the safe and reliable operation of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program. A $151 million reduction in the fiscal 2014 omnibus appropriations bill would leave even less money for Kesselring’s reactors, forcing KAPL to take one off line.
About 700 people would be impacted by the move. Some might be laid off, while others could be transferred out of the region.
Earlier this month, Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand issued a letter to Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lamar Alexander — both members of the Committee on Appropriations — urging them to keep nuclear propulsion program funding at $1.3 billion. This amount of funding would allow Kesselring to perform the necessary maintenance on the one reactor, the senators indicated.
Absent adequate funding, KAPL intends to shut down one reactor in 2015. Gene Terwilliger, a spokesman for KAPL, said the facility is prepared to move forward with whatever funding decisions are made in the Capitol.
“KAPL will be ready to support whatever funding decision is made by the Department of Navy and the Department of Energy,” he said in an email.