An unexpected outcome in the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act was the appropriators' decision to provide no money for the U.S. contribution to ITER. In addition, the Explanatory Statement directed that "Funding may not be reprogrammed from other activities within Fusion Energy Sciences to restore the U.S. contribution to ITER."The Administration requested $160.0 million. As reported in FYI #2, appropriators provided "$10,724,000 for Enabling R&D for ITER."
Twenty leaders in the U.S. fusion community have sent a letter to OSTP Director John Marburger, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Peter Visclosky (D-IN). (Visclosky and Dorgan have jurisdiction over funding for the Office of Science.) "We most respectfully urge that funding be provided for continued U.S. participation in ITER," the letter states, continuing, "We also ask that funding be restored to the other areas of the Department of Energy's Office of Science."
The Administration sends its FY 2009 budget to Congress on February 4. Senior Department of Energy officials will describe their request that day, and may comment on the FY 2008 outcome.
Copies of this letter were also sent to Energy Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach, and the leadership and members of relevant House and Senate appropriations and authorization committees. The full text of the January 4 letter follows:
"Dear Dr. Marburger, Secretary Bodman, Chairman Dorgan and Chairman Visclosky:
"Despite being fully funded in the President’s and in the House and Senate Appropriations measures, the Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus funding measure contains $0 for the U.S. contribution to the ITER Project. ITER is the key breakthrough project for magnetic fusion energy. The purpose of the ITER Project is to 'demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes.' If the United States cannot participate in ITER, the U.S. will lose a centerpiece of its own fusion program, a key scientific tool for understanding a fundamental process in the universe (burning plasmas like those in the sun and stars) and the pathway to the future of fusion energy.
"ITER is a joint project of the China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. Congress authorized U.S. participation in this project in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the President committed the United States to its approximately 10% share of the ITER construction just a few months ago. Failure by the United States to sustain its international commitments to ITER seems certain to establish the United States as an unreliable partner not only in the ITER project, but in many other areas of science. This comes at a time when the expense and scope of many critically important scientific activities suggest international partnership and cooperation.
"Therefore, for the sake of the international and domestic fusion effort and for the sake of the U.S. reputation in the international scientific community, we most respectfully urge that funding be provided for continued U.S. participation in ITER.
"Finally, as scientists concerned about the whole U.S. scientific enterprise, we also ask that funding be restored to the other areas of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. There is no doubt that scientific progress on a broad variety of fronts is essential for our nation’s future. These areas of science also represent essential fronts in our understanding of the universe and the basic functioning of the world around us. We therefore urge that these budgets also be made whole.
"Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter."
The letter was signed by:
Mohamed Abdou; University of California, Los Angeles
Charles Baker; University of California, San Diego
Michael Brown; Swarthmore College
John Cary; University of Colorado
Steven Cowley; University of California, Los Angeles
Stephen Dean; Fusion Power Associates
Robert Goldston; Princeton University
Adil Hassam; University of Maryland, College Park
Richard Hazeltine; University of Texas at Austin
Thomas Jarboe; University of Washington
Arnold Kritz; Lehigh University
Stanley Milora; Fellow, American Physical Society
Gerald Navatril; Columbia University
Miklos Porkolab; MIT
Stewart Prager; University of Wisconsin
Ron Stambaugh; General Atomics
George Tynan; University of California, San Diego
James Van Dam; University of Texas at Austin
Glen Wurden; Los Alamos National Laboratory