Keeping with the spirit of only spending more money on things than can kill us, the Trump budget increases funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous division of the Department of Energy charged with helping us use nuclear materials to keep America safe.
NNSA doesn’t appear to be directly involved in the Deep Borehole Field Test proposal, but NNSA’s online archives include this January 1996 paper on the idea of disposing of nuclear waste in deep boreholes. NNSA also contracts with Sandia National Laboratories, which has given presentations on the Deep Borehole Field Test.
The Trump budget doesn’t mention the boreholes (term must hit too close to home for the President), but it does specify $120 million for the Department of Energy to “restart licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and initiate a robust interim storage program.” Nuclear energy writer Rod Adams says the Trump Energy budget is spoiling for a fight rather than promoting comprehensive nuclear policy:
This phrase [on restarting Yucca], describing a spending item that represents just 0.4% of a $28 Billion DOE budget, opens up a new chapter in an argument that is as certain to cause political controversy without hope of resolution as either abortion or immigration.
…There is little or no good news in the draft budget blueprint that provides support advancing nuclear energy development. The nuclear weapons management complex and the clean-up programs seem to fare well, but there is no follow-on for the expired SMR program, ARPA-E is eliminated instead of expanded to cover nuclear, the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program is eliminated, and there are reductions in basic nuclear research conducted under the auspices of the Office of Science [Rod Adams, “Trump Budget Blueprint for DOE Designed to Revive Yucca Conflict Instead of Advancing Nuclear,” Forbes, 2017.03.18].
I wonder if the Trump Administration has even noticed the $36 million DOE wants to spend on the Borehole project, or the deep distrust with which the project has been received in New Mexico and South Dakota. But hey, if the President can’t be bothered with the details of our main nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, we can’t expect him to understand the details of new nuclear waste disposal technologies.