Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Paul Tonko announced that the Omnibus spending bill – a must-pass bill that funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year – includes $1.238 billion in funding for the Naval Reactors program, which will help maintain and grow sites like the Kenneth A. Kesselring site in West Milton, which is operated by Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL), and KAPL in Niskayuna. The bill also includes a special provision that specifically says the Kesselring site should receive the “full amount requested for operations and maintenance of the prototype reactors”. The bill, along with the funding allotment for the training program and this special Kesselring provision, which trains over 1,000 cadets per year on how to operate the 97 nuclear reactors that provide propulsion to Navy aircraft carriers and submarines, could be voted on by the House and Senate as early as this week. Schumer previously urged the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to provide the highest level of funding requested to the Naval Reactors program in order to help keep sites like Kenneth A. Kesselring in West Milton and KAPL in Niskayuna thriving. Schumer urged appropriators to consider the higher funding level being requested by the House, $1.215 billion; the amount being requested by the Senate was $1.208 billion. The final amount included in the bill is $1.238 billion, which will greatly benefit all naval reactors sites.
“This federal funding will help keep sites like Kenneth A. Kesselring in West Milton and KAPL in Niskayuna growing and thriving. The inclusion of this funding in the omnibus bill, and a special Kesselring-specific provision, will help us avoid a situation like the one we faced back in May, where the future of this program in the Capital Region, and the jobs that go with it, were in doubt,” said Senator Schumer. “All we need now is for this bill to pass both the House and the Senate, and then the request heads straight to the President’s desk. I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to vote for this bill and help us maintain and expand these programs.”
“This is great news for the incredible high-tech research and training programs happening in the Capital Region’s military institutions,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The Kesselring Site in West Milton and the KAPL site in Schenectady are crucial for our military’s energy security, and now that this funding has been included in the new spending bill, we will be able to continue these cutting-edge programs for years to come.”
“Our local economy and national security depend on the work done in Niskayuna and Saratoga County, and this funding will ensure that work will continue. I thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for their work in the Senate and with the administration on this integral program. Together, we made sure decision makers were aware that the research, development, support and training that takes place in these Capital Region facilities are critical to our fleet’s readiness and operation success – as well as millions of dollars of economic activity in our area. I will continue to work across the aisle and with Secretaries Moniz and Mabus to make sure Kesselring and KAPL continue to play a role in our region’s and nation’s success and security,” said Rep. Paul Tonko.
Schumer, Gillibrand, and Tonko have long been proponents of ensuring KAPL has the necessary funding to keep its vital nuclear training reactor on line. The program, which trains over 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 on October 1, 2014 due to a $151 million cut in the budget for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP). In May, Schumer placed personal phone calls to both Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) Ernest Moniz, asking them to provide an additional $16 million in FY14 needed to keep the Naval Reactor at the Kesselring site open. After Schumer’s push, the Navy and DOE eventually agreed to provide the funding.
Schumer, Gillibrand, and Tonko said that the funding included in the Omnibus Bill will help keep operations running smoothly and critical infrastructure sustainment work from being deferred, all of which will help the Kesselring site preserve 700 jobs and 1,000 Navy trainees who were at risk of being relocated earlier this year.
KAPL is a world-class research and development facility dedicated to support of the United States Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP). KAPL’s more than 2,600 employees develop advanced nuclear propulsion technology, provide technical support for the safe and reliable operation of existing naval reactors and provide training to naval personnel who operate them.
Schumer, Gillibrand, and Tonko vowed to continue to fight for funding for this program during future appropriation rounds.