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Rep. Judy Biggert's Remarks on Fusion

October 27, 2006

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), chair of the Energy Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, provided comments on Energy and Science issues at Fusion Power Associates Annual Meeting and Symposium, September 27-28 in Washington, DC. Her remarks were presented by Subcommittee staff member Dr. Michael Holland on her behalf.

In adddition to summarizing recent accomplishments of the Subcommittee on several energy bills, Rep. Biggert provided the following comments on the U. S. fusion program.

"Clearly, ITER is the top item on your agenda. First, let me congratulate Under Secretary Orbach, Todd Harding, Anne Davies and her staff in the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences for their hard work over the past several years in securing agreement on the ITER project. I think this agreement is a major accomplishment. It will serve as a template for other major international science projects, such as the international linear collider that I hope will be built at Fermilab.

"As you all know, the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) of 2005 required submission of several documents for Congressional review. These are (1) the ITER agreement, (2) a report describing the management structure for the ITER project and providing a fixed dollar estimate of the cost of United States participation in the construction of ITER, (3) a report describing how United States participation in ITER will be funded without reducing funding for other programs in the Office of Science, and (4) a plan for the participation of U.S. scientists in ITER.

"Although we are still finalizing the Committee‚s response to the Secretary, I can safely say that the Science Committee is satisfied that the ITER Agreement has been negotiated in accordance with the requirements in section 972 of the Energy Policy Act.

"Regarding the management structure of ITER, I think DOE is to be congratulated for seeing that the ITER Agreement puts the project on solid footing with strong central management. Strong management should go a long way to ensuring that ITER is constructed within cost and on schedule. EU's nomination of Dr. Norbert Holtkamp as the ITER Principal Deputy Director-General and Project Construction Leader and Mr. Gary Johnson as the Deputy Director General for Tokamak Systems gives me confidence that the United States will be intimately involved in the day-to-day management of the ITER construction project. The contributions Dr. Holtkamp and Mr. Johnson made in bringing Oak Ridge‚s Spallation Neutron Source project to completion on cost and on schedule will prove invaluable for the successful construction of ITER.

"In EPACT, Congress did express its concern that ITER not crowd out other opportunities in the Office of Science. President Bush‚s commitment, under the auspices of his American Competitiveness Initiative, has allayed those fears for Fiscal Year 2007. I can assure you, however, that the Committee will remain vigilant to ensure that future budget requests continue to strike that balance between fusion and other opportunities in the Office of Science.

"The last EPACT requirement, namely a plan for the participation of U.S. scientists in ITER, is understandably the toughest to deliver. I think the plan submitted by DOE on August 10 for the participation of U.S. scientists in the ITER is best viewed as the seed for a more in-depth planning process by the fusion research community and some Snowmass-like process will be an important. The August 10 plan rightly identifies development of a predictive understanding of the fusion plasma system as the central focus of the U.S. fusion research program. Articulating how that central focus informs the research agenda for participation of the United States in ITER requires additional consultation with you, the fusion research community. On-going feedback from the National Academy of Sciences should help.

"I know you have heard this before but identify what problems must be solved to make fusion work. Those specific scientific goals should then lead to technical milestones. A plan that lays that out will help Congress understand whether ITER is promoting progress toward fusion as a reliable and affordable source of power. Such a plan will also help Congress understand how work on ITER relates to other elements of the U.S. fusion program. You‚ve made progress over the years, so take my comments as encouragement to work with DOE to produce such a document.

"Before I close, let me say a few quick words about the Senate mark for the Fiscal Year 2007 Energy and Water appropriations bill. In report language, the Senate appropriators signal their intention to establish an Office of High Energy Density Science within the Office of Science. This new unauthorized $79.9 million program would support research in inertial fusion energy, fast ignition, petawatt laser development, plasma accelerators, and other research presently funded by Fusion Energy, Nuclear Physics, High Energy Physics, and inertial confinement fusion accounts within the National Nuclear Security Agency. This field of science currently benefits from a number of facilities that are either operating or under construction. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven and the National Ignition Facility at Livermore are but two.

"First, as an authorizer, let me say I don‚t think it is appropriate to authorize through appropriations legislation. I am not aware of any existing National Academy study or advisory committee panel that recommends the establishment of a separate Office of High Energy Density Sciences. However, if there is a case to be made for the establishment of such a program within the Office of Science, I am willing to listen. If convinced of its need, I would be willing to work to authorize such a program.

"I hope advocates for this Office of High Energy Density Science can restrain their enthusiasm and let the case be made. The National Academies of Science‚s Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos and Frontiers in High Energy Density Physics reports have identified high energy density physics as an emerging area of physics where there are great opportunities for discovery. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, in its Physics of the Universe report, has called for the development of a science-driven roadmap that identifies major scientific objectives and facility needs for high energy density physics.

"So my advice: let the interagency working group led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy finish developing a research plan for high energy density physics. At this time, I believe the merit of establishing a separate Office of High Energy Density Sciences has not yet been made. While I am willing to consider such a move, we should only make that assessment after we have had time to review the report of the interagency working group. To establish an Office of High Energy Density Sciences now before we have an adequate research plan in hand is premature. I firmly believe Congress should not create programs first and then derive the justification to fill them"

The full text of Rep. Biggert's remarks, and other talks at the meeting, are posted at http://fire.pppl.gov/fpa_annual_meet.html