On March 14th Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu who presides over the budget for the US fusion program testified to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Energy and Water about the DOE FY13 budget proposal.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Energy and Water has the authorizing authority for fusion research in the US (they give the money to DOE to spend on fusion and tell them where to spend it). Although the fusion energy sciences (FES) budget only comprises 1.5% of DOE’s budget proposal it was discussed at length.
Chairwoman Feinstein (D-CA) had several important statements about fusion in her opening statement:
The overall fusion energy sciences budget is not large enough to accommodate our commitment to the ITER project in France while, at the same time, maintaining our domestic program. The difficult decision was apparently made to cut funding to the fusion facility at MIT. The budget, though, fails to fully fund the commitment to ITER. This will likely increase our total contribution to ITER in the future and delay the project. I understand the decision not to prioritize fusion energy sciences in a tight budget environment. But if we’re making that decision, then we need to follow through and make the actual tough decisions within the program itself and not leave them floundering around.
Later she asked a direct question to Dr. Chu:
Let’s go to fusion and ITER and the 150 million this year with the United States’ contribution to ITER subject to grow to 300 million. Now, this is going to take money away from domestic fusion programs. They’re already concerned at NIF and also other scientific priorities, such as materials and biology research.
Here’s the question. Should the United States consider withdrawing from ITER, or at least reducing the United States’ contribution and if we continue to fund it, where will $300M come from?
You can read Chu’s response and the rest of the testimony concerning fusion research and technology transfer below:
The ~2hr webcast of the hearing can be found at the subcommittee website.