Mr. Chairman, I am Terry R. Lash, Director of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of
Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology. I am pleased to have this opportunity to present our
FY 1999 budget request to you today. The Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology
(NE) represents the core of the U.S. Government's expertise in nuclear energy research,
technology, and engineering. This technical expertise has enabled us to play a vital role in
addressing the nation's nuclear energy issues, and it equips us to address critical energy-related
challenges in the future. One of those challenges is how to improve the safety of Soviet-designed
nuclear power plants in Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union
in order to lessen the possibility of another catastrophic accident such as the one that took place
The primary objective of the International Nuclear Safety Program is to improve the safety of
Soviet-designed reactors. Serious problems exist at these plants in the areas of plant operation,
systems design, infrastructure support, and independent regulation. The importance of reducing
the risk presented by these reactor plants can be seen by looking at the aftermath of the
Chornobyl accident. This disaster was one of the events that ultimately led to the collapse of the
Soviet system. A nuclear accident of such magnitude today could have very negative effects on
the political stability of the region in addition to its catastrophic economic and environmental
impacts. It is in our national interest that these countries remain stable, independent, and
continue their movement toward democracy and free market economies.
The Office has prepared a strategic plan describing our approach to address these safety
problems. In preparing this plan and selecting individual projects, DOE thoroughly reviewed
relevant technical reports prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency and consulted
extensively with experts in Europe. Emphasis is given to the transfer of technology through a
pilot-plant approach to address the main issues and then transfer the work done at the pilot plants
to other sites. A program plan provides the detailed project plans and funding needs. Based on
these plans, a set of performance measurements was established to help measure our progress in
improving safety and provide feedback so we can optimize our approach.
The primary areas in which work is underway are development of operator training programs
based on U.S. training methods, installation of full scope simulators to train operators how to
respond to accident conditions, and improvements to safety systems such as the replacement of
instrumentation modules that cannot be properly calibrated or reliably repaired. We are also
teaching host countries how to conduct safety assessments that will assure that plant personnel
understand the nature of potential safety problems and how to solve them.
Examples from the many accomplishments of the program are the following: more than 3,000
power plant operators have received training at centers in Russia and Ukraine; emergency backup
electrical power systems have been provided to the Kola and Kursk nuclear power plants in
Russia; full-scope simulators have been delivered and installed at Khmelnytskyy Nuclear Power
Plant in Ukraine and at the Ukrainian Engineering Technical Center; equipment to improve
safety-related maintenance has been provided to Kursk, Leningrad, and Smolensk nuclear power
plants in Russia and the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine; and fire-resistant flooring
material is being installed at the Armenia nuclear power plant.
Our projects are improving safety. For instance, while developing and validating a model to
monitor core power level and power distribution within the core of RBMK reactors, as part of a
safety parameter display system project, it was discovered that a particular RBMK reactor had at
times been operating in an unsafe manner that could have caused an accident resulting in a major
release of radioactive fission products. Although a safety margin is included in the reactor's
operating limit to prevent this type of failure, prior to the development of a new three
dimensional model, this RBMK reactor had at times operated beyond the established safety
margins. By providing modern safety parameter display systems for RBMK reactors, we are
substantially improving the operator's understanding of total core power, power distribution
across the reactor, safety margins, reactor stability, and the margin of failure of individual fuel
rods. Within five seconds, the operator can become aware of dangerous situations requiring
plant shutdown or repositioning of the control rods.
As this example demonstrates, we do not simply solve nuclear safety problems for other
countries; we give them the know-how and technology they need to solve problems themselves
using modern methods and equipment. The goal is to transfer the capabilities that will enable
them to carry out nuclear safety improvements long after our program has been completed. The
strategic plan identifies end points for each of the major parts of the program. With adequate
funding we believe that by 2005 our program will have accomplished our goal of bringing
countries that operate Soviet-era nuclear power plants up to or near international safety practices
in the operation of their nuclear plants.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory assists DOE in managing this international nuclear safety
program. Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Idaho National
Engineering and Environmental Laboratory also participate in areas in which they have special
expertise. Our technical experts develop projects in close collaboration with our host country
counterparts including representatives of plants, design institutes, and safety-related
organizations. Products and services needed by host countries are competitively bid in the U.S.
private sector, though work is done in the host country whenever possible. Approximately 75
percent of program funds are expended with U.S. contractors, 20 percent with the national
laboratories, and 5 percent with host country organizations. We do not, as a rule, provide funds
to large governmental organizations such as Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy. We find that
our approach of working directly with the organizations that actually implement nuclear safety
projects is a more effective method of cooperation.
The European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and many
other Western countries and Japan are also providing expertise and equipment to countries
having Soviet-designed reactors. Our work is coordinated closely with these partners. We also
work closely with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that is providing assistance to these
countries to develop a strong and independent regulator.
For FY 1999, we have requested $35 million to allow DOE to perform the following important
In addition to our efforts to improve the safety of Soviet-designed reactors, we are working
closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development to address the unique challenges
associated with the safety and shutdown of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. Our work in this
area has its roots in the December 1995 agreement between the G-7 nations and the Government
of Ukraine on a comprehensive program to shut down Chornobyl by the year 2000. It was agreed
at that time that loans would be made available for electricity sector reforms, replacement power,
and efficiency measures. Grants would also be provided for short-term safety upgrades,
decommissioning, social costs of shutdown, and dealing with the deteriorating sarcophagus that
covers the damaged unit.
The Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology supports this comprehensive effort in
three ways. First, we are providing short-term safety upgrades at the one remaining operating
unit at Chornobyl. Second, we are supporting collaborative nuclear safety projects at the
International Chornobyl Center for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology that
will enable Ukraine to develop comprehensive, sustainable programs for the safe management of
nuclear activities and facilities. Third, we are taking steps to ensure worker health and safety at
the sarcophagus containing the damaged Chornobyl reactor while participating in G-7 efforts to
develop a long-term solution.
In conclusion, I would like to again stress the importance of continuing to improve the safety of
the Soviet-designed reactors in the countries of the former Soviet Union, in order to lessen the
possibility of another catastrophic accident like Chornobyl. Thank you for your attention.