I was up in Boston yesterday and today for an unrelated event (future blog post on that coming), but I took the time while I was up her to meet with Dr. Martin Greenwald, the Director of the MIT Plasma Physics Center. Dr. Greenwald was kind enough to show me around MIT’s Tokamak, the Alcator C-Mod.
Here at ASP, we firmly believe that, with concerted research and support, fusion could be the solution for clean, safe and sustainable future energy. It will take significant and sustained support, but it is finally, after 60 years of research, within our reach.
However, it is not easy to convince policy makers that an energy source that lies beyond the immediate commercial needs is worth supporting. I am afraid that America is no longer investing in big things- we are not doing the R&D that is necessary for our future prosperity.
It is for these reasons that all of us here at ASP were “shocked and appalled” that this year’s budget for the Department of Energy Office of Science included a significant cut in the U.S. domestic fusion energy program, including a total cut in funding for the Alcator C-Mod at MIT.
Since the announcement of that budget in February, however, I have been pleased to see that there has been some strong push-back against the budget, both from Congress and from within the fusion science community. Both of the local Senators, Kerry and Brown, have sent letters to the Appropriations Committee asking that funding be reinstated for MIT. The House, as well, had a letter that was signed by many Members. As the Appropriations subcommittees go to mark-up in the coming weeks, we will be watching closely to see if this support was successful in reinstating the funding.
The fusion community, too, has come together against this budget. It is now clear that there’s simply not going to be enough money at this point for both a domestic program and our commitments to ITER, if we stay on this trajectory. They see that budget crunch coming towards them, and they are coming together to find a way forward that can preserve both programs. ASP will be helping to support them in that effort by organizing a workshop in DC to build a real plan for accelerated deployment of fusion. Look for that event to take place in the first week of June.
Fusion research is important to America’s long term security and sustainability, and we’re going to work on getting that message out.