House Appropriations Shows Strong Support for Fusion

May 17, 2018

On May 16, the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives showed strong support for the U.S. fusion effort by endorsing the recommendations of its Energy and Water Subcommittee. The Subcommittee oversees funding for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Appropriations Bill must now be voted on by the full U.S. House of Representatives, merged with a similar Senate Bill (not yet formulated), and then signed into law by the President.

The House Appropriations Bill would provide to the Department of Energy's Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (part of the Office of Science) $590 million for Fiscal Year 2019 (which starts October 1, 2018). This compares to $532 million provided in the current year (FY 2018) and to the President's FY 2019 budget request for only $390 million.

The Bill also would provide to DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration $510 million in FY 2019 for its Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program and an additional $9 million for High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas research (previously funded in the ICF budget category). This compares to $545 million provided for FY 2018 and the President's request for only $419 million.

The Subcommittee's "report language" which provides guidance on the appropriations details is as follows:

For the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences:

The Committee recommends $281,704,000 for burning plasma science foundations, $61,246,000 for burning plasma science long pulse, and $84,050,000 for discovery plasma science. Within available funds, the recommendation provides $18,000,000 for High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas, $25,000,000 for Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing, $2,500,000 to provide upgrades to the Safety and Tritium Applied Research facility, and $7,000,000 for the Materials Plasma Exposure Experiment.

Construction. — The Committee recommends $163,000,000 for the U.S. contribution to the ITER project. The Committee continues to believe the ITER project represents an important step forward for energy sciences and has the potential to revolutionize the current understanding of fusion energy.

For Inertial Confinement Fusion:

Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Yield. — The recommendation rejects the NNSA’s request to discontinue major experimental activities within the ICF program. Funds provided to the ICF program support unique experimental platforms that help assess the state of the current stockpile and enable decisions on life extension programs without underground nuclear weapons testing. While progress in achieving ignition at the National Ignition Facility has been slow, the value of maintaining a robust research program in high energy density physics will continue to be recognized and strongly supported. To ensure that funds provided will be used to adequately maintain the NNSA’s experimental capabilities as intended, the recommendation includes new funding controls within the ICF program for the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Z Pulsed Power Facility at Sandia National Laboratories, and the Omega Laser Facility at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Within funds for High Energy Density R&D, the recommendation includes funding for research and support activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory, target fabrication, and not less than $8,000,000 for the Nike Laser at the Naval Research Laboratory. While the Committee continues to support the full utilization of ICF experimental facilities, the Committee also recognizes the need to save costs to ensure adequate funding for high priority stockpile modernization activities. The NNSA is directed to pursue full cost recovery for all users at the National Ignition Facility as previously recommended by the Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and to ensure that all users are transitioned to a full cost recovery model by fiscal year 2020.

For High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas:

Academic Alliances and Partnerships. — Within Academic Alliances and Partnerships, not less than $20,000,000 shall be for the Minority Serving Institution Partnerships Program and not less than $9,000,000 shall be for academic grants for high energy density laboratory plasmas previously funded within the Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High Yield program. The Committee supports continued research into high energy density plasmas and recognizes the partnerships between the national laboratories and research universities to address the critical need for skilled graduates to replace an aging workforce.