DOE Science Stimulus Funding Plan Released; Science Nominee Announced

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Publication date: 
25 March 2009

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu outlined on Monday how his department will spend the $1.2 billion that was provided in the economic stimulus act for science.  Among the recipients of this funding will be nine national laboratories that will receive $688.4 million.

This funding was contained in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which was signed into law by President Obama on February 17.  The Explanatory Statement accompanying the legislation allowed DOE wide latitude in how the money was to be spent:

“The conferees agree to provide an additional $1,600,000,000 for the Science program. After taking into account the additional $400,000,000 provided for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in a separate account, the funding level for Science is the same as proposed by the House, instead of $330,000,000 as proposed by the Senate.”

A statement issued by DOE on Monday provided the underlying rationale for how the funding would be spent:

“The DOE Office of Science Recovery Act funding is a strategic effort to achieve maximum short-term economic and jobs impact while bolstering the Nation’s long-term scientific strength through accelerated construction of key scientific facilities, acquisition of advanced scientific instrumentation, upgrades and modernization of our National Laboratory infrastructure, and expanded research support for graduate students, postdocs, and Ph.D. scientists working to solve critical problems in fields ranging from high energy and nuclear physics to biofuels, solar energy, solid-state lighting, superconductivity, electrical transmission and storage, carbon sequestration, combustion, environmental clean-up, materials science for energy efficiency, and other fields. Today’s discoveries will be tomorrow’s innovative technologies and hold the key to America’s continued prosperity and enhanced energy security in the coming decades.”

DOE announced that the funding will be spent as follows:

  • $330 million “for operations and equipment at Office of Science major scientific user facilities.”   The statement specifically identifies the Spallation Neutron Source, Nanoscale Science Research Centers, ARM Climate Research Facility, Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, and the Linac Coherent Light Source.
  • $277 million for the Energy Frontier Research Centers.  Chu was pleased this funding, which will be awarded competitively, had been allocated, citing an earlier concern that it “could have . . . fallen by the wayside.”
  • $150 million for Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source-II “to accelerate ongoing construction.”
  • $125 million for infrastructure improvements at Ames, Argonne, Brookhaven, Fermi, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, SLAC, and the Thomas Jefferson national laboratories.
  • $123 million “for major construction, modernization, and needed decommissioning of laboratory facilities” at Oak Ridge, Lawrence Berkeley and Brookhaven national laboratories.
  • $90 million “for other core research, providing support for graduate students, postdocs, and Ph.D. scientists across the nation.”
  • $69 million “to create a national scale, prototype 100-gigabit per second data network linking research centers across the nation.”
  • $65 million to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility “to accelerate construction of the 12-Billion Electron Volt Upgrade of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility.”

Planning is underway for the distribution of an additional $371 million beyond that outlined above.

Many of the laboratories and facilities have released statements outlining how they intend to use this money; see this site.    Readers should also consult this site  which outlines how the stimulus money is being spent in each state.

Chu’s remarks at Brookhaven National Laboratory were webcasted. Of note, the first bullet point in his first exhibit stated “President Obama has pledged to double funding for science over the next ten years.”  Chu spoke of the  Manhattan Project and the development of radar in World War II, and of the research conducted at Bell Laboratories, IBM, and Xerox Park.  There is “no equivalent in the energy sector” to conduct very basic research, he said, highlighting the important role that the national laboratories and university research will play in addressing this need.  Responding to a question from the audience about the interplay of energy and environmental issues, Chu called it “the most important problem science and technology has to solve.”

Last Friday, President Obama announced that he intends to nominate Steven E. Koonin to be the next Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy.  Koonin is the Chief Scientist for BP.  He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and was on the faculty and  then the Provost of Caltech.  Koonin has Ph.D. in theoretical physics from MIT.

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