Congress Passes DOE Policy Act

September 23, 2018

Congress has passed the "Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act" (H.R. 589). The Act provides policy guidance and direction to the Department and its programs, including the fusion office within the DOE Office of Science. The Act specifically provides direction to the Director of the Office of Science regarding fusion, as follows:


FUSION MATERIALS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT.-As part of the activities authorized in section 978 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 16318, the Director, in coordination with the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy of the Department, shall carry out research and development activities to identify, characterize, and demonstrate materials that can endure the neutron, plasma, and heat fluxes expected in a fusion power system; and the Director shall provide an assessment of—
(A) the need for one or more facilities that can examine and test potential fusion and next generation fission materials and other enabling technologies relevant to the development of fusion power; and
(B) whether a single new facility that substantially addresses magnetic fusion and next generation fission materials research needs is feasible, in conjunction with the expected capabilities of facilities operational as of the date of enactment of this Act.

TOKAMAK RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT.—The Director shall support research and development activities and facility operations to optimize the tokamak approach to fusion energy.

INERTIAL FUSION ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT.—The Director shall support research and development activities for inertial fusion for energy applications.

ALTERNATIVE AND ENABLING CONCEPTS.—The Director shall support research and development activities and facility operations at institutions of higher education, National Laboratories, and private facilities in the United States for a portfolio of alternative and enabling fusion energy concepts that may provide solutions to significant challenges to the establishment of a commercial magnetic fusion power plant, prioritized based on the ability of the United States to play a leadership role in the international fusion research community.

COORDINATION WITH ARPA–E.—The Director shall coordinate with the Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy ("ARPA–E") to
(1) assess the potential for any fusion energy project supported by ARPA–E to represent a promising approach to a commercially viable fusion power plant;
(2) determine whether the results of any fusion energy project supported by ARPA–E merit the support of follow-on research activities carried out by the Office of Science; and
(3) avoid the unintentional duplication of activities.

FAIRNESS IN COMPETITION FOR SOLICITATIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL PROJECT ACTIVITIES.—Section 33 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2053) is amended by inserting before the first sentence the following: "In this section, with respect to international research projects, the term 'private facilities or laboratories' means facilities or laboratories located in the United States."

(A) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the fusion energy research and development activities that the Department proposes to carry out over the 10-year period following the date of the report under not fewer than 3 realistic budget scenarios, including a scenario based on 3-percent annual growth in the non-ITER portion of the budget for fusion energy research and development activities.

INCLUSIONS.—The report required under subparagraph (A) shall—
(i) identify specific areas of fusion energy research and enabling technology development in which the United States can and should establish or solidify a lead in the global fusion energy development effort;
(ii) identify priorities for initiation of facility construction and facility decommissioning under each of the three budget scenarios described in subparagraph (A); and
(iii) assess the ability of the fusion workforce of the United States to carry out the activities identified under clauses (i) and (ii), including the adequacy of programs at institutions of higher education in the United States to train the leaders and workers of the next generation of fusion energy researchers.

PROCESS.—In order to develop the report required under paragraph (1)(A), the Secretary shall leverage best practices and lessons learned from the process used to develop the most recent report of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel.

REQUIREMENT.—No member of the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee shall be excluded from participating in developing or voting on final approval of the report required under paragraph (1)(A).

Copies of the entire Act are available on request from Fusion Power Associates by email at fusionpwrassoc@aol.com