H.R. 589 combines seven previously passed science bills to provide policy direction to the Department of Energy on basic science research, nuclear energy research and development, research coordination and a review of existing programs, and important reforms to streamline national laboratory management. Major provisions of the legislation include:
Title I is designed to provide flexibility to modernize our country’s national laboratory system and promote the transfer of federal research to the private sector to improve the public-private partnerships and bring innovative ideas to the marketplace. Title I authorizes a pilot program for ACT agreements to facilitate cooperative research between the national labs and third-party entities, and prioritizes activities to improve access for private companies and universities to lab resources.
Title II contains the Department of Energy research coordination provisions from the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. Specifically, Title II instructs the Secretary to use existing capabilities at the Department of Energy to identify strategic opportunities for collaborative research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of innovative science and technologies. In addition, Title II reauthorizes the Strategic Portfolio Review, instructing the Department to review all activities and ensure they meet the Department's code mission of discovery science. This review also identifies areas of subpar performance or duplicative programs, as well as work that could be better accomplished by the states and private sector. Finally, Title II provides for the protection for proprietary information collected by ARPA-E and authorizes a program to manage and establish accountability for the energy innovation hubs.
Title III provides statutory direction for the basic research programs in the DOE Office of Science, including research in basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, high performance computing, nuclear physics, high energy physics, and fusion energy. Similar statutory direction for Department of Energy basic research was included in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015.
Title III also specifically authorizes the Secretary of Energy to undertake a basic research initiative in chemistry and material sciences for the purpose of eventually developing solar fuel systems and advancing electricity storage systems. It further directs the Secretary to leverage existing resources within the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and provides guidance regarding how to execute the basic research initiative.
In addition, Title III amends the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 to require the Secretary of Energy to develop technologies in an effort to demonstrate an exascale supercomputer system.
Title III also requires the Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to carry out a research program on low-dose radiation, with the purpose of enhancing the scientific understanding of low-dose radiation and reducing uncertainties associated with human exposure to low-dose radiation.
Title IV provides statutory direction for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) research and development (R&D;) for advanced nuclear energy technologies. Specifically, the title ensures DOE enables the private sector to partner with national laboratories to develop novel reactor concepts; leverages DOE’s supercomputing infrastructure to accelerate nuclear energy R&D; authorizes DOE to enable the private sector to construct and operate privately-funded reactor prototypes at DOE sites; requires DOE to produce a transparent, strategic, 10-year plan under two budget scenarios for prioritizing nuclear R&D; programs, one which considers budget constraints the other which does not; and provides DOE with statutory direction for a reactor-based fast neutron source that will operate as an open-access user facility to enable academic and proprietary research in the U.S.