ITER: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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Publication date: 
4 January 2008

The ITER language in the Explanatory Statement accompanying the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act was completely unexpected. Appropriators zeroed out the U.S. contribution to ITER for FY 2008, and instructed Department of Energy officials not to shift money from within the Fusion Energy Sciences program to restore this money.        

This FYI reviews the FY 2008 ITER request sent to Congress, the language in the initial House and Senate Appropriations Committees reports, the final funding bill's Explanatory Statement, and a statement released by the Department of Energy. Information on ITER is available at:


This selection was taken from the "Department of Energy, FY 2008 Congressional Budget Request, Budget Highlights" at   Note that "MIE" is "Major Item of Equipment;" figures are in millions of dollars.

"Fusion Energy Sciences (FY 2007 $319.0; FY 2008 $427.9) ..................................+$108.9             Funding for the international ITER project increases significantly to support the third year of funding for the U.S. Contributions to ITER MIE. This MIE provides hardware, personnel, cash for common expenses, and contingency to the International ITER Organization ($160.0; +$100.0). The increase for the remainder of the program supports activities at the FY 2007 request level and includes increases in the Science research programs ($159.5; +$5.3), ongoing support for Facility Operations other than ITER ($77.0; +$3.0), and Enabling R&D ($31.3; +$0.6)."


In the introductory words for the Office of Science, the report stated:

"The Committee has several areas of concern. First, despite the large increase in funding, insufficient funds are proposed to fulfill the various landlord functions of the Office of Science. The considerable backlog of World War II vintage buildings cluttering the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is an example. Second, growth in the estimated cost for the International Linear Collider (ILC) means that the schedule for this major high energy physics facility, which the United States aspires to host, will be delayed. Implementation of the Dark Energy Mission without further delay can provide significant intellectual progress on the question of dark energy while further study is done on the ILC. Third, not all user facilities can be retained as new cutting-edge capabilities come on line, and some hard choices must be made. Fourth, while total funding for Fusion Energy Sciences increases significantly, the large increase to fund the U.S. contribution to the International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor (ITER) results in an increase to the domestic fusion research program that is only slightly above the rate of inflation and far smaller than the percentage increases for most other research areas. The Committee recommends some shifts in funding and priority from those proposed by the Administration to address these concerns."

The report language for Fusion Energy Sciences section stated:

"The Committee recommendation for fusion energy sciences is $427,850,000, the same as the budget request, and $108,900,000 above the previous year reflecting the $100,000,000 growth in the budget for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

"The Committee does not support funding for a new program in High Energy Density Physics and provides no funds for this research area. The Committee directs that the $12,281,000 requested for High Energy Density Physics be used to increase funding for the following: $7,500,000 for facility operations at the three U.S. user facilities - the DIlI-D, Alcator C-Mod, and National Spherical Torus Experiment, $1,500,000 for Theory, $1,500,000 for materials research within Enabling R&D, and $1,781,000 for Alternative Concept Experimental Research.

"The Committee notes that major growth in support for ITER, with an additional increase in this support of $54,500,000 planned for fiscal year 2009, is affecting the overall funding picture for Fusion Energy Sciences and for the Office of Science as a whole. When direct funding for ITER is excluded, Fusion Energy Sciences increases by just 3.8 percent and the increase requested for the Office of Science, while still large, is 13.4 percent rather than 15.8 percent. If delays in ITER associated with international cooperation reduce the amount that can be spent on ITER in fiscal year 2008, the Committee directs the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences to invest the funds made available in Theory, materials research within Enabling R&D, Alternative Concept Experimental Research and operating time at the three U.S. user facilities rather than retaining the money for ITER and carrying it over to future fiscal years."


ITER was not mentioned in the committee report language in the Fusion Energy Sciences section:

"For Fusion Energy Sciences, the Committee recommends $427,850,000. This program advances plasma science, fusion science, and fusion technology through collaborations among U.S. universities, industry, national research laboratories, and the international fusion community.

"High Energy Density Plasma Laboratory Program- The Committee is pleased that the Department has developed a multidisciplinary research program, which this Committee has been an advocate for the past several years. The Committee believes this program will provide greater interaction between the Office of Science researchers and the NNSA scientists and provide greater access to user facilities such as the Z machine, NIF and Omega. While these activities have their primary responsibility in the weapons program, these facilities can offer scientists new capabilities to support their experiments. The Committee encourages the Department to increase their investment in this modest program to ensure it future success. The Committee supports the budget request of $12,281,000 for the Office of Science. The Committee notes a similar amount has been included in the NNSA program."

The report did mention ITER in the following language in the section on High Energy Physics:

"International Linear Collider- The Committee provides $60,000,000 to support research to support the U.S. ILC effort within the Accelerator Development, International Linear Collider R&D activities. The Committee appreciates the scientific challenge of building the ILC in the United States, establishing our leadership in this discipline among an international team. Despite the large financial commitment by the President in scientific research, the Committee is concerned that the ILC will crowd out other valuable research as has been demonstrated with both the National Ignition Facility within the NNSA, the Rare Isotope Accelerator and ITER, both within the Office of Science. The Department must provide a cost estimate including an out year funding plan and an explanation of how this initiative will impact other facilities and scientific research."

The final stage of the budget cycle was the conference between House and Senate appropriators to write the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Both of the initial House and Senate bills provided the full request of $427.9 million for the Fusion Energy Sciences program.


The final bill written by the conference committee provided $289.2 million for the Fusion Energy Sciences program, a reduction of $138.7 million from the recommended levels in both versions of the bill and the President's request. The Explanatory Statement included the following language (all amounts subject to an across-the-board recission of 0.91 percent):

"Funding under this heading in the amended bill includes $289,180,000 for Fusion Energy Sciences. Within Fusion Energy Sciences, $162,910,000 is provided for Science, $93,504,000 for U.S. Facility Operations, an increase of $6,000,000 to be used to increase facility operations at three U.S. user facilities (i.e., the DIII-D, Alcator C-Mod, and National Spherical Torus Experiment) $22,042,000 for Enabling R&D, an increase of $1,225,000 for materials research, $0 for the U.S. contribution to ITER, and $10,724,000 for Enabling R&D for ITER. Funding under this heading in the amended bill includes $12,281,000 for High Energy Density Physics. Funding may not be reprogrammed from other activities within Fusion Energy Sciences to restore the U.S. contribution to ITER."


"The low level of funding for the ITER project in the Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus budget legislation is disappointing. The international ITER project's mission is to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of clean fusion energy. The Department of Energy is reviewing the budget situation and its implications as well as assessing options for the U.S. government to continue to meet its commitment to this important international research program. Fusion energy remains an important component of President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, given fusion's potential to become an attractive long-range option for the U.S. clean energy portfolio."

The Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee is scheduled to next meet on February 19 and 20 in suburban Washington.