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September 29, 1998
US Fusion Budgets
House and Senate Conferees have agreed to FY 1999 budget numbers for the DOE, including funds for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences and the Inertial Confinement Fusion program within DOE's Defense Programs. The full House approved the bill on September 28 and the Senate is expected to follow shortly, at which time the appropriations bill will be sent to the President for signature. Although the US fiscal year officially starts October 1, Congress has passed a "continuing resolution," giving themselves until October 9 to pass the appropriations bills.
The Conferees approved a budget of $229.75 million for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, slightly more than the $228.2 million the President had requested. The bill specifically includes $12.2 million "as directly related to completion of ITER-related activities, including funds to complete research and development in the base technology program and to provide for orderly ITER closeout costs."
The conferees provided $508 million for the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program within DOE's Defense Program's Stockpile Stewardship Program. These funds provide full funding for continued construction of the laser-based National Ignition Facility (NIF), being built at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The bill provides $10 million more for ICF than the President asked for, with the additional funds earmarked "to further development of high average power lasers." These latter funds, which are expected to go for development of high efficiency, repetitively-pulsed Krpton-Fluoride and diode-pumped solid state lasers, would be of value to the energy application potential of inertial confinement fusion.
The conferee's report language on the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences request is as follows:
"The conferees have provided a total of $229,750,000 for fusion energy sciences, a $1,590,000 increase over the amount in the budget request. The conference agreement includes $223,300,000 for the fusion energy sciences program. Funding for this program has been provided in the Science account as recommended by the Senate instead of the Energy Supply account as recommended by the House. The conferees have provided up to $6,450,000 for all program direction expenses related to the fusion program within the $49,800,000 provided in the Science account for program direction. The conferees note that the Department continues to emphasize tokamak development at the expense of other promising technologies. The conferees continue to be very supportive of the increased emphasis on innovative confinement concepts and university- based experiments. The conferees encourage the Secretary 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 and proposed alternative concept experiments at the proof-of-principle level, including an increase for inertial confinement.
"International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).-- The conferees note that the ITER agreement expired on July 21, 1998. For the past several years, Congress has been clear that the U.S. commitment to ITER extended only through fiscal year 1998. The Department is directed not to sign an extension of this agreement without the written consent of the authorizing and appropriations committees of the House and Senate. The conferees understand and support the value of international collaboration. The Department is encouraged to consider the possibility of utilizing the existing international fusion center in San Diego in future collaborations.
"The conferees note that the description of ITER and ITER- related activities in the budget request is not comparable to the classification of these activities in fiscal year 1998, but support the orderly completion of research and development of components that can be completed in fiscal year 1999. For example, the conferees fully expect the Department to meet its commitment to the delivery and testing of the central solenoid model coil.
"The conferees have included $12,200,000 as directly related to completion of ITER-related activities, including funds to complete research and development in the base technology program and to provide for orderly ITER closeout costs. The Department must submit a reprogramming request if requirements exceed the $12,200,000 provided.
"Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR).--In fiscal year 1997, Congress terminated funding for the TFTR. The conferees note that TFTR has ceased operation and that many parts of the TFTR facility will be re-used for the new National Spherical Torus Experiment. Currently, the Department is spending approximately $4,000,000 annually for care-taking of the remaining TFTR components. The Department has no immediate plans for the decommissioning of the TFTR unit, proposing to continue care-taking expenses indefinitely. The conferees have been made aware of decommissioning proposals to complete decommissioning in three years, with estimated savings of $25,000,000. The conferees direct the Department to prepare a reasonable, timely and cost-effective decommissioning plan and to submit a plan to begin decommissioning in the fiscal year 2000 budget request. The Department shall consult with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory throughout the development of this plan.""