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June 15, 1998
FY 1999 Fusion Budgets
The Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Subcomittee on Energy and Water have each "marked up" the FY 1999 DOE budget request and have both earmarked $232 million for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, which is the same as the FY 1998 appropriation and a slight increase over the $228.2 requested by the President. Both committees have also accepted the President's full request of $498 million for DOE Defense Program's inertial confinement fusion program, including $284.2 million for continued construction of the National Ignition Facility.
The marks must still be incorporated into an appropriations bill that is passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President before becoming law. Although the fusion marks are identical in House and Senate, a conference committee would still be required to settle differences in other parts of the DOE appropriation before being passed.
The Senate and House marks are accompanied by "report language" indicating opinions of the committee staffs. The report language will be superceded by conference committee report language, if any.
The Senate report "recommends that the Department, prior to committing to any future magnetic fusion program or facilities, conduct a broader review to determine which fusion technology or technologies the U. S. should pursue to achieve ignition and/or a fusion energy device." The report says, "The Department currently funds four fusion related technologies: pulsed power, lasers, ion drivers and magnetic fusion. The Department has been reluctant or unable to review those technologies as a group because they have different near-term objectives and are managed by different program offices. Regardless of these near-term and management differences, the Committee is aware that scientists within each program have an eye toward ignition and energy applications. The Committee is well aware of the challenges entailed by a review of multiple programs and multiple and possibly competing technologies. However, the Department should conduct an encompassing review of all four technlogies prior to making decisions about the next step toward fusion energy, specifically to consider non-magnetic alternatives. At the very least, the review should develop a roadmap that justifies the continued development of each technology." The committee also called for a "schedule and budget for the decommissioning and decontamination of the TFTR."
Commenting on inertial confinement fusion, the Senate committee said "The ICF Program continues to be a major contributor to the science and technology base supporting the nuclear deterrent through improved understanding of the underlying physics of nuclear weapons and computational modeling that will provide the future basis for ensuring safety, reliability, and performance on nuclear components." The report also says, "The Committee continues to be impressed with the significant scientific advancements being made in pulsed power technology at Sandia National Laboratories Z accelerator. Major increases in energy and temperature production enhance prospects that pulsed power may contribute in a significant way to both weapons and energy applications technology at Sandia National Laboratories Z accelerator. Funds are included to support continued work in pulsed power experiments at the Z accelerator and to fund initial design studies for a larger facility. The Committee understands that this work should help DOE and its laboratories reach a conclusion on the technical and fiscal feasibility of building a larger scale pulsed power facility."
The House Subcommittee report states that it "continues to be very supportive of the increased emphasis on innovative confinement concepts and university-based experiments." It says, "The Committee encourages the Department to provide sufficient resources for these efforts. In particular, special emphasis should be placed on funding operations, upgrades, and enhanced design work on both existing research and proposals for new alternative concept experiments at the proof-of-principle level." The report says, "In addition to magnetic fusion, there are several promising technologies that have potential for producing electricity. The Department is directed to comprehensively review all known technologies and submit a program plan that includes activities funded in this account and potentially-related activities funded elsewhere in the Department. Recognizing the significant advances in Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) sponsored by the national security program, the Committee strongly endorses the complementary work to be funded in this account including heavy-ion drivers, high gain target concepts, and reactor concepts."
The committee report goes on to say regarding the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, "The Congress has been very clear that no obligation exists for future participation in ITER beyond the fiscal year 1998 contribution for engineering and design activities (EDA). The Committee is concerned about the recent announcement that the Department has already proposed to enter into a new agreement to start engineering and design of a newly-conceived, less costly reactor: "ITER-Lite." The Committee observes that the proponents of ITER have seized upon only one of the concerns the Congress has about ITER. The Committee continues to question whether the tokamak is the most promising technology and whether the current partners in ITER are willing and able to meet their commitments. The Committee observes that after ten years and a U. S. contribution of $345 million, the partnership has yet to even select a site for this construction project. The Committee objects to the proposed extension of the EDA and has not provided any additonal funds for ITER, ITER-Lite or the Joint Central Team. The Department may use prior year funds for closeout costs related to ITER." The report also calls for a decommisioning plan for TFTR.
In a related action, Rep. Joseph M. McDade, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, sent a letter dated June 11 to Energy Secretary Federico Pena, urging him "to look into this proposed exension (of the ITER EDA) and determine whether this is a prudent course of action for the Department." McDade said, "In the report accompanying last year's appropriation bill, the Committee directly listed the questions about ITER: Where will it be built? Is the current design too ambitious? What environmental concerns need to be addressed? What level of confidence can be reached regarding the willingness and ability of our partners to make timely and sufficient contributions to the project? . . . These questions have not been answered." McDade asks Pena "to refrain from rushing into a new international agreement before there has been sufficient dialogue with our partners and Congress . . . and to let me know of your intentions before the Department takes action on this issue."