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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on May 20, 2015.
America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015
TITLE I--NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION (Sec. 101) Authorizes appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
(Sec. 103) Specifies policy objectives for the NSF in allocating resources.
(Sec. 105) Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) sustained, predictable federal funding is essential to U.S. leadership in science and technology; (2) building understanding of and confidence in investments in basic research are essential to public support for sustained, predictable federal funding; and (3) the NSF should commit itself fully to transparency and accountability and to clear, consistent public communication regarding the national interest for each NSF-awarded grant and cooperative agreement.
(Sec. 106) Directs the NSF to award federal funding for basic research and education in the sciences through a new research grant or cooperative agreement only if it makes an affirmative determination, justified in writing, that the grant or agreement promotes the progress of science in the United States, is worthy of federal funding, and meets certain other criteria.
(Sec. 107) Prohibits the obligation of funds for an NSF construction project that has not commenced before enactment of this Act until 30 days after transmittal to Congress of the annual report on major research equipment and facilities construction.
(Sec. 108) Directs the NSF to maintain a Large Facilities Office within the Office of the NSF Director to support the research directorates in the development, implementation, and assessment of major multi-user research facilities.
Requires the NSF Director to appoint a senior agency official within the Office of the Director responsible for oversight of major multi-user research facilities.
Requires the NSF to study reforming the NSF policies on financial management of major multi-user research facilities.
Allows the NSF to provide management fees under an award only if the awardee has demonstrated that it has limited or no other financial resources available to cover the expenses for which the fees are sought.
Specifies prohibited uses of management fees.
(Sec. 109) Subjects the NSF to the prohibitions and requirements of the pilot program for the enhancement of contractor protection from reprisal for disclosure of certain information.
Requires the NSF to provide education and training to the NSF managers and staff on such prohibitions and requirements and to give information on the law to all grantees, contractors, and their employees.
(Sec. 110) Expresses the sense of Congress that the NSF Research Traineeship Program, formerly the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, (or any successor to it) should be maintained.
Directs the NSF to enter into an agreement with the National Research Council (NRC) to convene a workshop or roundtable to examine models of federal support for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduate students, including the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and comparable fellowship programs at other agencies, traineeship programs, and the research assistant model.
(Sec. 111) Permits the use of a grant made by the Education and Human Resources Directorate to support informal education to: (1) support the participation of underrepresented students in nonprofit competitions, out-of-school activities, and field experiences related to STEM subjects; and (2) broaden underrepresented secondary school students' access to, and interest in, careers that require academic preparation in STEM subjects.
(Sec. 112) Directs the NSF, within the Education and Human Resources Directorate (or any successor to it), under existing programs targeting broadening participation, to provide grants on a merit-reviewed, competitive basis for research on programming that engages underrepresented students in grades kindergarten through 8 in STEM.
Requires the use of awarded grants for research to advance the engagement of underrepresented students in grades kindergarten through 8 in STEM through the implementation of innovative before-school, after-school, out-of-school, or summer activities.
(Sec. 113) Requires the NSF to review the NSF education programs in operation to determine: (1) whether any of these programs duplicates target groups, services provided, fields of focus, or objectives; and (2) how the programs are being evaluated and assessed for outcome-oriented effectiveness.
(Sec. 114) Instructs the NSF to ensure that the system for recompetition of Maintenance and Operations of facilities, equipment, and instrumentation is fair, consistent, and transparent and is applied in a manner that renews grants and awards in a timely manner.
(Sec. 115) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding industry's involvement in STEM education.
(Sec. 116) Prohibits any falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism in the findings and conclusions of any article authored by a principal investigator receiving an the NSF research grant, using the results of the research conducted under the grant, that is published in a peer-reviewed publication, otherwise made publicly available, or incorporated in an application for a research grant or grant extension.
Instructs the NSF Director to make publicly available any finding that research misconduct has been committed, including the name of the principal investigator, within 30 days of final administration action.
(Sec. 117) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the reproduction and replication of published scientific research findings.
Requires the NSF Director to enter into an agreement with the NRC to assess research and data reproducibility and replicability issues in interdisciplinary research and make recommendations on how to improve rigor and transparency in scientific research.
(Sec. 118) Directs the NSF to establish procedures to ensure that specified requirements are met with respect to research grants awarded by the NSF.
(Sec. 119) Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the use of scientific computing resources funded by the NSF at institutions of higher education.
(Sec. 120) Instructs the NSF to place a high priority on designing and administering pilot programs for scientific breakthrough prizes, in conjunction with private entities, for technological breakthroughs of strategic importance to the United States that have the capacity to spur new economic growth.
(Sec. 121) Requires NSF reports to Congress on individuals employed pursuant to the Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970.
(Sec. 122) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the NSF's Innovation Corps. Declares that the I-Corps should continue to promote a strong innovation system by investing in and supporting female entreprenuers, who are historically underrepresented in entrepreneurial fields, through mentorship, education, and training.
(Sec. 123) Directs the NSF to support research activities related to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, encouraging it to work with the Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience to determine how to use the NSF and other agency data infrastructures to help neuroscientists collect, standardize, manage, and analyze large amounts of data.
(Sec. 124) Amends the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 to allow the award of the NSF Master Teaching Fellowships to mathematics and science teachers who possess a bachelor's degree in their field (currently limited to those with a master's degree).
Makes teachers with bachelor's degrees in their field and working towards a master's degree eligible for a one-year NSF Master Teaching Fellowship.
Makes elementary or secondary school computer science teachers eligible for teacher recruiting and training grants under the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.
(Sec. 125) Requires the NSF Director to continue to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants to support: (1) research and development of innovative out-of-school STEM learning and emerging STEM learning environments, and (2) research that advances the field of informal STEM education.
(Sec. 126) Requires the NSF to continue to operate the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Urges the NSF to make this program a high priority.
(Sec. 127) Directs the NSF, within 120 days of enactment of this Act, to establish the Hispanic-serving institutions undergraduate program described in the America COMPETES Act for Hispanic-serving institutions of higher education.
TITLE II--SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS
(Sec. 201) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding federal STEM programs.
(Sec. 202) Directs the President to establish or designate a 15-member STEM Education Advisory Panel, co-chaired by members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
(Sec. 203) Amends the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to require the Committee on STEM Education to: (1) collaborate with the STEM Education Advisory Panel and other outside stakeholders to ensure the engagement of the STEM education community, and (2) review evaluation measures used for federal STEM education programs.
(Sec. 204) Requires the NSF to establish within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources a STEM Education Coordinating Office to:
give technical and administrative support to the Committee on STEM Education, the Advisory Panel, and federal agencies with STEM education programs; update periodically an inventory of federally sponsored STEM education programs and activities, and arrange dissemination of information on federal STEM education programs and activities to stakeholders in academia, industry, nonprofits with expertise in STEM education, state and local education agencies, and other STEM stakeholders. TITLE III--OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
(Sec. 301) Authorizes appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
(Sec. 302) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the administrative burdens and costs in federal research administration.
Requires the OSTP Director to establish a working group under the authority of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) that includes the Office of Management and Budget.
Makes this working group responsible for reviewing federal regulations affecting research and research universities and making recommendations on how to: (1) harmonize, streamline, and eliminate duplicative federal regulations and reporting requirements; (2) minimize the regulatory burden on U.S. institutions of higher education performing federally funded research while maintaining accountability for federal tax dollars; and (3) identify and update specific regulations to refocus on performance-based goals rather than on process while still meeting the desired outcome.
(Sec. 303) Requires the OSTP to establish under the NSTC a body, co-chaired by senior level officials from OSTP and the Department of State, to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation that can strengthen U.S. science and technology enterprise, improve economic and national security, and support U.S. foreign policy goals.
(Sec. 304) Directs specified federal science agencies to conduct pilot programs to validate alternative research funding models, including: (1) scientific breakthrough prize programs of strategic importance to the nation with the capacity to spur new economic growth; and (2) novel mechanisms of funding.
States that judges for prize competitions carried out under this section shall not be required to be federal employees.
Requires a judge for a prize competition with a total purse of $10,000 or more, or for an aggregate of prize competitions with a total purse of $50,000 or more, to disclose all personal financial interests.
(Sec. 305) Amends the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 regarding prize competitions, allowing an agency to waive liability insurance requirements for participants.
Allows an agency to enter into a grant, contract, cooperative agreement, or other agreement with a private sector for-profit as well as a nonprofit entity (as under current law) to administer a prize competition.
Permits the use of funds from private sector for-profit entities to support a prize competition, as well as federal agency funds made available to the extent provided by appropriations acts.
Prohibits an agency from giving special consideration to any private sector for-profit entity in return for a donation.
Limits the use of federal funds to those made available by appropriations Acts.
(Sec. 306) Authorizes the President to appoint a United States Chief Technology Officer, who shall be one of the Associate Directors of the OSTP, to:
advise the President and the OSTP Director on federal information systems, technology, data, and innovation policies and initiatives; promote the use of innovative technological approaches across the federal government to ensure a modern information technology infrastructure; and work with the Chief Technology Officers and Chief Information Officers of all federal agencies to ensure the use of the best technologies and security practices for information systems. (Sec. 307) Directs OSTP to arrange with the NRC to review technologies employed at institutions of higher education in order to provide notifications to students, faculty, and other personnel during emergency situations.
TITLE IV--NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY
(Sec. 401) Authorizes appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
(Sec. 402) Amends the National Institute of Standards and Technology Act to authorize the NIST Director to: (1) serve as the President's principal advisor on standards policy pertaining to technological competitiveness and innovation ability, (2) facilitate standards-related information sharing and cooperation between federal agencies, (3) participate in and support scientific and technical conferences, and (4) perform pre-competitive measurement science and technology research with institutions of higher education and industry.
(Sec. 403) Revises the membership of the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology, from a maximum of 15 to a minimum of 11, requiring that at least two-thirds of them (currently 10) to be from U.S. industry. Authorizes the Committee to consult with the NRC in making recommendations regarding general policy for NIST.
(Sec. 404) Authorizes the Department of Commerce to undertake activities to protect NIST buildings and other plant facilities, equipment, and property and persons located in them or associated with them.
(Sec. 405) Revises requirements for research fellowships. Authorizes the NIST Director to support, promote, and coordinate activities and efforts to enhance awareness and understanding of measurement sciences, standards, and technology. Requires the Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program to include no fewer than 20 fellows per fiscal year (currently, no fewer than 20 nor more than 120 new fellows per fiscal year). Eliminates the separate manufacturing fellowship and teacher science and technology enhancement programs.
(Sec. 406) Requires the three-year programmatic planning document for NIST to also describe how the NIST Director is addressing recommendations from the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology.
(Sec. 407) Directs NIST to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to review NIST laboratory programs.
Directs NIST to contract with the NRC to assess the technical quality and impact of the work conducted at NIST laboratories. (Currently, NIST may contract with the NRC for advice and studies to serve industry and science.)
Allows NIST to contract with the NRC also to conduct additional assessments of NIST programs and projects that involve collaboration across NIST laboratories and centers and assessments of selected scientific and technical topics.
(Sec. 408) Revises requirements for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Hollings Manufacturing Extension Centers.
Includes as an objective of the Centers the promotion and expansion of certification systems offered through industry, associations, and local colleges.
Eliminates from the activities of Centers any loans, on a selective, short-term basis, of items of advanced manufacturing equipment to small manufacturing firms with less than 100 employees.
Requires those activities instead to include facilitation of collaborations and partnerships between small and medium-sized manufacturing companies and community colleges and area career and technical education schools to help: (1) the colleges and schools better understand the specific needs of manufacturers, and (2) manufacturers better understand the skill sets that students learn in the programs offered by those institutions.
Repeals the six-year limitation on financial support the Department of Commerce may give to any Center created under the Partnership.
Instructs Commerce to implement, review, and update regulations related to the Partnership at least once every three years.
Revises cost-sharing requirements for the receipt by an applicant of financial assistance under the Partnership.
Requires a Center to: (1) undergo an independent review in its eighth year of operation, and (2) be placed on probation for one year if the evaluation is not positive. Requires the Director, if a Center, upon reevaluation, has not shown a significant improvement in its performance, to conduct a new competition to select an operator for the Center. Permits the Director, as an alternative, to close the Center.
Requires the NIST to: (1) transmit to Congress a plan for how it will conduct reviews, assessments, and reapplication competitions; and (2) contract with an independent organization to assess the implementation of the reapplication competition process required for any Center after 10 consecutive years of financial assistance.
Applies the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to confidential information obtained by the government on the business operation of any participant in a Partnership program or of a client of a Center and trade secrets possessed by any client of a Center.
Requires each Center's advisory boards to institute a conflict of interest policy that ensures representation of local small and medium-sized manufacturers in the Center's region. Prohibits board members from serving or providing services to the Center or serving on more than one Center's oversight board simultaneously.
Changes the membership of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Advisory Board from a maximum to a minimum of 10, at least one of whom represents a community college.
Requires the Director, under the competitive grant program, to select proposals that will promote the transfer and commercialization of research and technology from institutions of higher education, national laboratories, and nonprofit research institutes.
Eliminates the separate innovative services initiative to assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers.
(Sec. 409) Eliminates the requirement for NIST, through the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), to continue providing support originally awarded under the Advanced Technology Program.
(Sec. 410) Amends the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 to repeal the limitation to 75% of the total cost of the program on the total amount of any grant or cooperative agreement to assist activities under the Act.
(Sec. 411) Removes the National Security Agency (NSA) from the list of agencies that NIST must consult in developing standards and guidelines for information systems.
(Sec. 412) Expresses the sense of Congress concerning U.S.-Israeli cooperation with regard to basic scientific research.
Calls on NIST to continue to facilitate scientific collaborations between Israel and the U.S. technical agencies working in measurement science and standardization.
TITLE V--DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SCIENCE
(Sec. 501) Amends the Department of Energy Organization Act to declare that the mission of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science shall be the delivery of scientific discoveries, capabilities, and major scientific tools to transform the understanding of nature and to advance the energy, economic, and national security of the United States.
Directs the Office of Science, in support of such mission, to carry out programs on basic energy sciences, advanced scientific computing research, high energy physics, biological and environmental research, fusion energy sciences, and nuclear physics through activities focused on:
fundamental scientific discoveries through the study of matter and energy; science in the national interest; and national scientific user facilities to deliver the 21st century tools of science, engineering, and technology and provide U.S. researchers with the most advanced tools of modern science. Requires the Under Secretary for Science and Energy to ensure the coordination of Office of Science activities and programs with other activities of DOE.
(Sec. 502) Directs the Office of Science to carry out a program in basic energy sciences, including materials sciences and engineering, chemical sciences, physical biosciences, and geosciences to support:
fundamental research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies; and DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security. Requires a subprogram for the development and operation of national user facilities, including x-ray light sources, neutron sources, nanoscale science research centers, and other appropriate facilities, to support the program in basic energy sciences.
Directs the Office of Science to:
establish an initiative to sustain and advance global leadership of light source user facilities; carry out research and development on advanced accelerator and storage ring technologies relevant to the development of Basic Energy Sciences user facilities; and make awards, on a competitive, merit-reviewed basis, to multiinstitutional collaborations or other appropriate entities to conduct fundamental and use-inspired energy research to accelerate scientific breakthroughs. Requires selection of a collaboration for a five-year period. Allows an existing Energy Frontier Research Center supported by the Office of Science to continue receiving that support for five years after its establishment.
(Sec. 503) Directs the Office of Science to carry out a research and development program to advance computational and networking capabilities to analyze, model, simulate, and predict complex phenomena relevant to the development of new energy technologies and U.S. competitiveness.
Requires the Office of Science to develop world-class computing and network facilities for science and deliver critical research in applied mathematics, computer science, and advanced networking to support DOE's missions.
Amends the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 with respect to: (1) exascale computing (computing system performance at or near 10 to the 18th power floating point operations per second), and (2) a high-end computing system with performance substantially exceeding that of systems commonly available for advanced scientific and engineering applications.
Directs the DOE to:
coordinate the development of high-end computing systems across DOE; partner with universities, national laboratories, and industry to ensure the broadest possible application of the technology developed in the program to other challenges in science, engineering, medicine, and industry; and include among the multiple architectures researched, at DOE discretion, any computer technologies that show promise of substantial reductions in power requirements and substantial gains in parallelism of multicore processors, concurrency, memory and storage, bandwidth, and reliability. Repeals authority for establishment of at least one High-End Software Development Center.
Directs DOE to conduct a coordinated research program to develop exascale computing systems to advance DOE missions. Requires establishment through competitive merit review of two or more DOE national laboratory-industry-university partnerships to conduct integrated research, development, and engineering of multiple exascale architectures.
Requires DOE to conduct mission-related co-design activities in developing such exascale platforms. Defines "co-design" as the joint development of application algorithms, models, and codes with computer technology architectures and operating systems to maximize effective use of high-end computing systems.
Directs the DOE to develop any advancements in hardware and software technology required to realize fully the potential of an exascale production system in addressing DOE target applications and solving scientific problems involving predictive modeling and simulation and large-scale data analytics and management.
Directs DOE to submit to Congress an integrated strategy and program management plan.
(Sec. 504) Directs the Office of Science to carry out a research program on the fundamental constituents of matter and energy and the nature of space and time.
Expresses the sense of Congress regarding particle physics.
Requires the Office of Science to carry out research activities on:
rare decay processes and the nature of the neutrino; the nature of dark energy and dark matter; and advanced accelerator concepts and technologies, including laser technologies, to reduce the necessary scope and cost for the next generation of particle accelerators. Instructs the Director of the Office of Science to ensure the access of U.S. researchers to the most advanced accelerator facilities and research capabilities in the world, including the Large Hadron Collider.
(Sec. 505) Directs the Office of Science to carry out a program of research and development in the areas of biological systems science and climate and environmental science to support the energy and environmental missions of DOE.
Directs GAO to identify climate science-related initiatives under this section that overlap or duplicate those of other federal agencies.
Prohibits the Office of Science from approving new climate science-related initiatives without first determining that such work is unique and not duplicative of work by other federal agencies. Requires the the Office to cease those overlapping or duplicative initiatives , unless justified as critical to achieving American energy security.
Requires the Office of Science to carry out a research program on low dose radiation to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation.
Requires the Office of Science to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to assess the current status and development of a long-term strategy for low dose radiation research.
Directs DOE to deliver to Congress a five-year research plan responding to the assessment's findings and recommendations.
Makes DOE's limitation on biomedical and human cell and human subject research inapplicable to research under this section.
(Sec. 506) Directs the Office of Science to carry out a fusion energy sciences research program to:
expand the fundamental understanding of plasmas and matter at very high temperatures and densities, and build the scientific foundation necessary to enable fusion power. Requires the Director of the Office of Science, in coordination with the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Research, to carry out research and development activities to identify, characterize, and demonstrate materials that can endure the neutron, plasma, and heat fluxes expected in a fusion power system.
Requires DOE to assess:
the need for a facility or facilities that can examine and test potential fusion and next generation fission materials and other enabling technologies relevant to the development of fusion power; and whether a single new facility that substantially addresses magnetic fusion and next generation fission materials research needs is feasible, in conjunction with the expected capabilities of facilities that are already operational. Directs the Office of Science to support research and development activities and facility operations to optimize the tokamak approach to fusion energy.
Requires DOE to assess: (1) the most recent schedule of ITER approved by the ITER Council, and (2) the progress of the ITER Council and the ITER Director General toward implementing the recommendations of the Third Biennial International Organization Management Assessment Report.
Expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should support a robust, diverse fusion program.
Directs DOE to carry out a program of research and technology development in inertial fusion for energy applications, including ion beam, laser, and pulsed power fusion systems.
Directs the Office of Science to support research and development activities and facility operations at U.S. universities, national laboratories, and private facilities for a portfolio of alternative and enabling fusion energy concepts that may provide solutions to significant challenges to the establishment of a commercial magnetic fusion power plant, prioritized based on the ability of the United States to play a leadership role in the international fusion research community.
Requires the Under Secretary for Science and Energy and the Director of the Office of Science to coordinate with the Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to assess the potential for any ARPA-E-supported fusion energy project to represent a promising approach to a commercially viable fusion power plant.
Directs DOE to assess opportunities in which the United States can provide world-leading contributions to advancing plasma science and non-fusion energy applications, and identify opportunities for partnering with other federal agencies both inside and outside DOE.
(Sec. 507) Directs the Office of Science to carry out programs:
of experimental and theoretical research, and support associated facilities, to discover, explore, and understand all forms of nuclear matter; and for the production of isotopes needed for research, medical, industrial, or other purposes. (Sec. 508) Directs the Office of Science to carry out a program to improve the safety, efficiency, and mission readiness of infrastructure at the Office's laboratories.
(Sec. 509) Requires DOE to report to Congress on the current ability of domestic manufacturers to meet procurement requirements for major ongoing projects funded by the Office of Science.
(Sec. 510) Authorizes appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the Office of Science.
TITLE VI--DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY APPLIED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Subtitle A--Crosscutting Research and Development
(Sec. 601) Directs DOE, through the Under Secretary for Science and Energy, to utilize DOE capabilities to identify strategic opportunities for collaborative research and development of innovative science and technologies for:
advancing the understanding of the energy-water-land use nexus; modernizing the electric grid by improving energy transmission and distribution systems security and resiliency; using supercritical carbon dioxide in electric power generation; subsurface technology and engineering; high performance computing; cybersecurity; and critical challenges identified through comprehensive energy studies, evaluations, and reviews. Requires DOE to: (1) prioritize activities that promote the use of all affordable domestic resources; (2) develop a rigorous planning, evaluation, and technical assessment framework for setting objective, long-term strategic goals and evaluating progress that ensures the integrity and independence to insulate planning from political influence and the flexibility to adapt to market dynamics; and (3) identify programs that may be more effectively left to the states, industry, nongovernmental organizations, institutions of higher education, or other stakeholders.
(Sec. 602) Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require the plan developed to improve coordination and collaboration in research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities across DOE organizational boundaries to include:
critical assessments of any ongoing programs that have experienced sub-par performance or has cost over-runs of 10% or more over one or more years; activities that may be more effectively left to the states, industry, nongovernmental organizations, institutions of higher education, or other stakeholders and proposals for innovation hubs, institutes, and research centers prior to establishment or renewal by DOE. (Sec. 603) Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require DOE to submit to Congress along with the President's budget request for FY2018 a report on the strategy for facilities and infrastructure supported by certain DOE offices at all National Laboratories and single-purpose research facilities.
(Sec. 604) Directs DOE to make five-year (renewable) awards to consortia for establishing and operating Energy Innovation Hubs to conduct and support, whenever practicable at one centralized location, multidisciplinary, collaborative research, development, and demonstration of advanced energy technologies.
Requires the DOE to designate a unique advanced energy technology focus for each Hub.
Instructs the DOE to ensure the coordination of, and avoid unnecessary duplication of, the activities of Hubs with those of other DOE research entities, including the national laboratories, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), Energy Frontier Research Centers, and within industry.
Requires a consortium, to be eligible for such an award, to be composed of at least two qualifying entities and operate subject to an agreement entered into by its members that documents budget and certain measures, including a plan for managing intellectual property rights.
Requires each Hub to conduct or provide for multidisciplinary, collaborative research, development, and demonstration of advanced energy technologies within the technology development focus designated for it.
Requires Hubs to:
maintain conflict of interest procedures to ensure that employees and consortia designees for Hub activities who are in decisionmaking capacities disclose all material conflicts of interest or face disqualification, and avoid such conflicts. Prohibits the use of award funds, and of any funds that are part of the nonfederal share of a Hub cost-sharing agreement, for the construction of new buildings or facilities for Hubs.
Allows the DOE to terminate an underperforming Hub for cause during the performance period.
Subtitle B--Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Research and Development
(Sec. 611) Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 also to require DOE, in carrying out distributed energy resources and systems programs to seek to:
leverage existing programs; consolidate and coordinate activities throughout DOE to promote collaboration and crosscutting approaches; ensure activities are undertaken in a manner that does not duplicate other activities within DOE or other federal government activities; and identify programs that may be more effectively left to the states, industry, nongovernmental organizations, institutions of higher education, or other stakeholders. (Sec. 612) Requires the comprehensive research and development program to ensure the reliability, efficiency, and environmental integrity of electrical transmission and distribution systems to include technologies to enhance security for such systems.
Requires DOE, in carrying out this program, to seek to:
leverage existing programs; consolidate and coordinate activities throughout DOE to promote collaboration and crosscutting approaches; ensure activities are undertaken in a manner that does not duplicate other activities within DOE or other federal government activities; and identify programs that may be more effectively left to the states, industry, nongovernmental organizations, institutions of higher education, or other stakeholders. Subtitle C--Nuclear Energy Research and Development
(Sec. 621) Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require civilian nuclear energy research and development programs to take into consideration the following new objectives:
reducing used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste products generated by civilian nuclear energy, supporting technological advances that industry by itself is not likely to undertake because of technical and financial uncertainty, and researching and developing technologies and processes to meet federal and state requirements and standards for nuclear power systems. (Sec. 622) Directs GAO to study the scientific and technical merit of major federal and state requirements and standards, including moratoria, that delay or impede the further development and commercialization of nuclear power, and how DOE can assist in overcoming such delays or impediments.
(Sec. 623) Repeals the mandates for: (1) the Nuclear Power 2010 Program, (2) the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems Initiative, and (3) research to examine designs for high-temperature reactor production of hydrogen.
Directs DOE to carry out a research and development program to advance nuclear power systems as well as technologies to sustain currently deployed systems.
Requires DOE to examine advanced reactor designs and nuclear technologies, including those that:
have higher efficiency, lower cost, and improved safety compared to reactors in operation; utilize passive safety features; minimize proliferation risks; substantially reduce production of high-level waste per unit of output; increase the life and sustainability of reactor systems currently deployed; use improved instrumentation; are capable of producing large-scale quantities of hydrogen or process heat; minimize water usage or use alternatives to water as a cooling mechanism; or use nuclear energy as part of an integrated energy system. Requires DOE to seek opportunities to enhance program progress through international cooperation through such organizations as the Generation IV International Forum or any other international collaboration DOE considers appropriate.
Prohibits any funds authorized for these activities from being used to fund the activities authorized under the Next Generation Nuclear Plant Project.
(Sec. 624) Directs DOE to carry out a program to promote research and development of small modular reactors, including through cost-shared projects for commercial application of reactor systems designs.
Permits activities to include development of advanced computer modeling and simulation tools, by federal and non-federal entities, which demonstrate and validate new design capabilities of innovative small modular reactor designs.
(Sec. 625) Replaces the advanced fuel recycling technology research and development program with a research and development program on fuel cycle options that improve uranium resource utilization, maximize energy generation, minimize nuclear waste creation, improve safety, mitigate risk of proliferation, and improve waste management in support of a national strategy for spent nuclear fuel and the reactor concepts research and development program under section 623.
Authorizes DOE to consider developing:
reactor fuels that increase energy generation, improve safety performance and margins, and minimize the amount of nuclear waste produced in an open fuel cycle; advanced recycling technologies; advanced storage technologies; an advanced reactor innovation testbed; and any other technology or initiative likely to advance the objectives of the program. Permits DOE also to:
investigate the potential research benefits of a fast test reactor user facility, and support certain additional advanced recycling and crosscutting activities. (Sec. 626) Directs DOE to conduct a program to support the integration of activities undertaken through the reactor concepts research and development program and the fuel cycle research and development program, and support crosscutting nuclear energy concepts.
Authorizes these activities to include research involving:
advanced reactor materials, advanced radiation mitigation methods, advanced proliferation and security risk assessment methods, advanced sensors and instrumentation, high performance computation modeling, and any crosscutting technology or transformative concept aimed at establishing relevant, appropriate, substantial, and revolutionary enhancements in the performance of future nuclear energy systems. (Sec. 627) Directs NIST to establish a nuclear energy standards committee to facilitate and support the development or revision of technical standards for new and existing nuclear power plants and advanced nuclear technologies.
(Sec. 628) Directs DOE to prepare a database, accessible on the DOE website, of non-federal user facilities receiving federal funds that may be used for unclassified nuclear energy research.
Subtitle D--Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research and Development
(Sec. 641) Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require energy efficiency programs under that Act to prioritize activities that industry by itself is not likely to undertake because of technical challenges or regulatory uncertainty.
Modifies the objectives to be taken into consideration under such program, eliminating reduction of U.S. energy demand and improvement of U.S. energy security.
Revises the technologies that shall be included in the research and development of such programs, eliminating hybrid and electric propulsion systems and advanced control devices to improve the energy efficiency of electric motors, but adding advanced battery technologies and fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.
(Sec. 642) Eliminates the Next Generation Lighting Initiative, the grant and technical assistance program to support the development of voluntary consensus-based standards for high-performance buildings, and the secondary electric vehicle battery use program.
(Sec. 645) Authorizes the DOE to transfer to the NIST up to $150 million through FY2017 from appropriations for advanced manufacturing research and development to carry out the Network for Manufacturing Innovation Program.
(Sec. 646) Revises certain requirements related to the Advanced Energy Technology Transfer Centers. Prohibits the use of any funds awarded under the Act for the deployment of commercially available technologies. Repeals the authorization of appropriations for such program.
(Sec. 647) Declares as an objective of renewable energy research and development programs decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign mineral resources (currently, on foreign energy supplies).
Revises requirements regarding solar energy and wind energy programs.
Eliminates research on fish-friendly large turbines from hydropower programs.
Requires DOE analysis and evaluation activities in support of the renewable energy programs to include an assessment of domestic and international market drivers, including the impacts of any federal, state, or local grants, loans, loan guarantees, tax incentives, statutory or regulatory requirements, or other government initiatives.
(Sec. 648) Repeals the requirement that the bioenergy program include economic analysis.
Revises the goals of the biofuels and bioproduct programs to include development of advanced conversion of biomass to biofuels and bioproducts as part of integrated biorefineries based on either biochemical processes, thermochemical processes, or hybrids of those processes.
Eliminates integrated biorefinery demonstration projects, the university biodiesel program, and the program for research, development, demonstration, and commercial application for increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption in the operation of biorefinery facilities.
Prohibits any of funds authorized for carrying out provisions relating to the bioenergy program from being used to fund commercial biofuels production for defense purposes.
Redefines "biomass" to include solids derived from waste water treatment processes.
(Sec. 649) Eliminates the concentrating solar power research program and the demonstration program for renewable energy in public buildings.
Subtitle E--Fossil Energy Research and Development
(Sec. 661) Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to repeal the requirement that fossil energy programs take into consideration the objective of improving U.S. energy security.
Requires DOE to seek to:
leverage existing programs; consolidate and coordinate activities throughout DOE to promote collaboration and crosscutting approaches; ensure activities are undertaken in a manner that does not duplicate other activities within DOE or other federal government activities; and identify programs that may be more effectively left to the states, industry, nongovernmental organizations, institutions of higher education, or other stakeholders. Eliminates the prohibition against using any funding authorized for such programs for Import/Export Authorization.
Prohibits the use of the results of any DOE fossil energy research, development, demonstration, or commercial application projects or activities for regulatory assessments or determinations by federal regulatory authorities.
Requires DOE to assess:
the technical, institutional, policy, and regulatory constraints to bringing new domestic fossil resources to market; and existing and projected technological capabilities for expanded production from domestic unconventional oil, gas, and methane reserves. (Sec. 662) Includes under the program for coal and related technologies programs to facilitate production and generation of coal-based power through:
specific additional programs to address water use and reuse; the testing of high temperature materials for use in advanced systems for combustion or the use of coal; and innovations to application of existing coal conversion systems designed to increase efficiency of conversion, flexibility of operation, and other modifications to address existing usage requirements. Authorizes DOE to enter into cost-sharing partnerships with private entities to carry out a specified transformational coal technology program.
Directs DOE to establish an advisory committee under the carbon capture and sequestration research and development program to review DOE progress in achieving the goals of this program, the coal and related technologies program, and the transformational coal technology program.
Directs DOE to assess the cost and feasibility of engineering, permitting, building, maintaining, regulating, and insuring a national system of carbon dioxide pipelines.
(Sec. 663) Directs DOE, through the Office of Fossil Energy, to carry out a multiyear, multiphase program of research and development to:
support innovative engineering and detailed gas turbine design for megawatt-scale and utility-scale electric power generation; include technology demonstration through component testing, sub-scale testing, and full scale testing in existing fleets; make field demonstrations of the developed technology elements so as to demonstrate technical and economic feasibility; and assess overall combined cycle and simple cycle system performance. Specifies the goals of such multiphase program. Specifies requirements for grants to and contracts with industry, small businesses, universities, and other appropriate parties to conduct activities under this program.
Subtitle F--Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
(Sec. 671) Amends the America COMPETES Act to revise ARPA-E goals to repeal specifications for:
reductions of imports of energy from foreign sources; reductions of energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases; and improvement in the energy efficiency of all economic sectors. Bars ARPA-E from providing funding for a project unless the prospective grantee demonstrates sufficient attempts to secure private financing or indicates that the project is not independently commercially viable.
Requires DOE, once every six years after the sixth year ARPA-E has been in operation, to offer to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate how well ARPA-E is achieving its goals and mission.
Declares that specified categories of proprietary information collected by ARPA-E from recipients of financial assistance awards from ARPA-E shall be considered as privileged and confidential and not subject to disclosure pursuant to the FOIA.
Subtitle G--Authorization of Appropriations
(Sec. 681) Authorizes appropriations to DOE for FY2016-FY2017 for related technology activities of:
the Office of Electricity, the Office of Nuclear Energy (but with no amounts derived from the Nuclear Waste Fund), the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Fossil Energy, and ARPA-E. Subtitle H--Definitions
Defines "Department" as Department of Energy and "Secretary" as Secretary of Energy. TITLE VII--DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
Subtitle A--In General
(Sec. 701) Defines terms used in this title.
(Sec. 702) Declares that nothing in this title or an amendment made by it abrogates or otherwise affects the primary responsibilities to DOE of any National Laboratory. Subtitle B--Innovation Management at Department of Energy
(Sec. 712) Directs DOE to: (1) assess annually for Congress its ability to improve the technology transfer and commercialization of energy technologies, including the role and effectiveness of the Director of the Office of Technology Transitions; and (2) recommend policy and legislative changes to improve DOE ability to transfer new energy technologies successfully to the private sector.
(Sec. 713) Expresses the sense of Congress that DOE should encourage the nonmilitary National Laboratories (national laboratories) and federally funded research and development centers to inform small businesses of the opportunities and resources that exist pursuant to this title.
(Sec. 714) Requires DOE to report on its capabilities to authorize, host, and oversee privately funded fusion and non-light water reactor prototypes and related demonstration facilities at DOE-owned sites. Instructs DOE, for purposes of this report, to consider DOE capabilities to facilitate privately-funded prototypes of up to 20 megawatts thermal output.
Subtitle C--Cross-Sector Partnerships and Grant Competitiveness
(Sec. 721) Directs DOE to carry out the Agreements for Commercializing Technology pilot program, in part by giving the contractors of the DOE nonmilitary national laboratories increased authority to negotiate contract terms and making every such facility eligible for the program.
Permits the directors of the national laboratories to execute agreements with non-federal entities, provided that such funding is only used to carry out the purposes of the federal award. Subjects funding agreements to the requirements of the Bayh-Dole Act (concerning patent rights to inventions arising from federally-supported research and development).
Imposes contractor certification requirements for the avoidance of direct competition with the private sector and conflicts of interest.
Extends the pilot program until October 31, 2017.
(Sec. 722) Requires DOE to delegate to the directors of the national laboratories signature authority with respect to certain agreements (except those with a majority foreign-owned company) whose total cost is less than $1 million.
(Sec. 723) Permits the directors of national laboratories to use funds authorized to support technology transfer within DOE to carry out early-stage and pre-commercial technology demonstration activities to: (1) remove technology barriers that limit private sector interest, and (2) demonstrate potential commercial applications of any research and technologies arising from national laboratory activities.
(Sec. 724) Amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to exempt, for six years after enactment of this Act, institutions of higher education and nonprofit institutions from the cost-sharing requirements for research and development.
(Sec. 725) Authorizes DOE to enter into an agreement with the NSF to enable the participation of DOE researchers in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program.
Subtitle D--Assessment of Impact
(Sec. 731) Requires the GAO to report to Congress on the results of projects developed under subtitle C, and on DOE efforts to promote technology transfer and private sector engagement at the national laboratories.
TITLE VIII--SENSE OF CONGRESS
(Sec. 801) Expresses the sense of Congress that climate change is real.