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August 12, 1998
Sensenbrenner Visits Japan
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, is visiting Japan August 10-14. He will meet with senior government officials and visit fusion facilities. Sensenbrenner cautioned U.S. fusion scientists that he was not going to Japan to negotiate the terms for U.S. signing the ITER Extension Agreement (see FPN98-21, 22, 23) but was simply on a "fact finding mission."
In response to an inquiry, Sensenbrenner sent a letter, dated August 7, to Fusion Power Associates president Steve Dean, in which he states:
"I believe it is clear that ITER -- as originally envisioned and specifically defined in the 1992 ITER agreement -- will not be built, and that there appears to be consensus among the ITER Parties that alternatives to the current design need to be explored. However, it is not clear that there is consensus in either the U.S. or the international fusion communities of what these alternatives should be or how a simple extension of the current ITER agreement -- which was designed for a specific project -- would accomplish this.
"When I assumed the Chair of the Science Committee in January of 1997, I defined several guiding principles that have been applied to the Committee's work in order to reach our goal of enabling the United States and its scientists to remain the world's preeminent intellectual and economic leaders in the 21st Century. One of my principles is centered on the need to nurture international scientific partnerships to leverage scarce federal dollars. However, any agreement for international cooperation requires well-defined and enforceable terms from the outset. This is essential to maintain existing relationships and promote future projects. Without well-defined and accepted parameters, international cooperation will not succeed.
"I can assure you, however, that I support international cooperation in fusion. To this end, I intend to consult with other Members of Congress and the U.S. and international fusion communities and am willing to work with the Department of Energy to help craft an agreement that ensures this cooperation can continue."
Sensenbrenner was responding to a July 15 letter from Dean which said:
"Yesterday the Government of Japan signed the three year extension agreement to continue the ITER international collaboration on fusion energy development. The European Union and Russia signed previously, leaving the United States the only Party whose signature is not on the line.
"I have read your June 25 letter to then Secretary Pena (FPN98-20) urging him to delay signing the extension agreement and I ask you to reconsider your view and to assist Under Secretary Moniz in his efforts to secure Congressional blessing on this agreement extension.
"It has been largely the United States that has urged that fusion energy development, for the global benefit of mankind, be undertaken as an international venture. For good reason, other countries have often questioned whether the United States is a reliable partner. I cannot think of anything that will more harm the United States reputation as a reliable partner than failure of the United States to sign the exension agreement before its expiration.
"Nothing in the extension agreement commits the Parties to the construction of ITER. Nothing in the agreement commits the United States to contribute any specific amount of funds to the ITER effort. The agreement does commit the United States to work in good faith with the other Parties to develop fusion as a future energy source and I hope that you will agree with me that it is in the interest of our children and grandchildren that we do this.
"I thank you for your past support of the United States fusion effort."