H.R. 589: Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act

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.

Last updated Mar 18, 2017. Source: Republican Policy Committee

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 20, 2017.

Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act

Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act

This bill instructs the Department of Energy (DOE) to permit its National Laboratories to use funds authorized to support technology transfer within DOE to carry out early stage and precommercial technology demonstration activities so as to remove technology barriers limiting private sector interest and to demonstrate potential commercial applications of any research and technologies arising from activities of the national laboratories.

DOE shall carry out its Agreements for Commercializing Technology pilot program, as announced on December 8, 2011, in accordance with this bill.

Department of Energy Research Coordination Act

DOE shall identify strategic opportunities for collaborative research and development of innovative science and technologies.

DOE shall carry out a program to enhance economic, environmental, and energy security by making awards for the establishment of Energy Innovation Hubs to conduct and support research and development of advanced energy technologies.

Department of Energy Office of Science Policy Act

The bill states that the mission of the Office of Science shall be the delivery of scientific discoveries, capabilities, and major scientific tools to transform the understanding of nature and to advance energy, economic, and national security.

The Office of Science shall: (1) carry out specified research programs; (2) assess the potential for any fusion energy project supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E); (3) carry out a program for improving the safety, efficiency, and mission readiness of infrastructure at its laboratories; and (4) ensure the access of researchers to the most advanced accelerator facilities and research capabilities, including the Large Hadron Collider

DOE shall carry out Solar Fuels Research and Electricity Storage Research Initiatives.

The Office of Science may carry out a program for the production of isotopes that are needed for research, medical, industrial, or related purposes.

Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act

By December 31, 2017, DOE shall determine mission need for a versatile reactor-based fast neutron source to operate as a national user facility.

DOE shall: (1) carry out a program for enhancing the nation's capabilities to develop new reactor technologies through high-performance computation modeling and simulation techniques, and (2) submit budget plans for civilian nuclear energy research and development.