After the intervention of Sen. Charles Schumer, the U.S. Navy will provide an additional $16 million to run the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program operated by Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory at the Kenneth Kesselring site.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Department of Defense will transfer funds for the facility from the Navy budget to the Department of Energy so that agency can continue funding the Kesselring site. Schumer said he was assured by the Navy and the Department of Energy the funding will be enough to keep the facility and its training programs running this year.
“The Navy and DOE heard our case loud and clear and made the right decision that staves off a disruptive and very unwise closure and provides the financial fuel to keep this absolutely vital nuclear training reactor humming,” Schumer said Wednesday. “Today’s announcement that the Navy will provide an extra $16 million this year to keep the Kesselring site open is great news for the Capital Region and for our country, which relies on the Kesselring reactors to train essential military personnel.
“It’s a critical resource for the Capital Region economy and for our national security. It was imperative that we avoided the closure of one of the reactors, and today we’ve done just that. But our work is not yet complete: We also must make sure it keeps running for years to come, so I will continue to work with both Secretary [of Energy Ernest] Moniz, Secretary [of the Navy Ray] Mabus and my Senate colleagues to secure funds for next year and beyond.”
The program, which trains more than 1,000 cadets per year on how to operate the 97 nuclear reactors that provide propulsion to Navy aircraft carriers and submarines, was at risk of having to shut down one of its nuclear training reactors Oct. 1 due to a $151 million cut in the budget for the overall nuclear propulsion program. Knolls houses two nuclear reactors used for training, employing about 700 Navy and civilian personnel, including 450 sailors who train on the reactors at any one time.
In addition to pushing for funding for this year, Schumer said he is also fighting for funding for 2015 in the ongoing appropriations process. Schumer said his goal is to secure additional appropriations in the next few years so that KAPL’s nuclear reactor is taken permanently off the chopping block.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act — a bill passed in January that funds 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. Earlier this month, Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., issued a letter to Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee — both members of the Senate Appropriations Committee — urging them to keep nuclear propulsion program funding at $1.3 billion. That amount of funding would allow Kesselring to perform necessary maintenance on the second reactor, the senators indicated.