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A Tough Budget for Fusion

A Tough Budget for Fusion

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As many of you know, ASP has been doing a lot of work on fusion over the past year. Our White Paper and Fact Sheet show how important fusion energy is to America’s energy future.

That’s why we were so surprised – actually “Shocked and appalled” – by the budget for Fusion Research in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science budget – the magnetic fusion program (inertial fusion is run through the NNSA). Today is “Fusion Day” where many of the scientists from around the country come to Washington to meet their Members of Congress to lobby for the budget. This year’s fusion day events are particularly important because of the cuts to the budget, and because of the prospects for future budgets.

The details of the FY13 fusion budget are these:

  • The budget requests $398.3 million for OFES, $4 million less than FY12
  • This includes $150M for the U.S. contributions to ITER – a $45M increase from FY 2012, but $50M short of the U.S. ITER project’s plan.
  • This includes approximately $248M for domestic fusion research, a $49M decrease from the current funding level.

The cut in the domestic fusion program would have a devastating impact on U.S. fusion research. It would  shut down the Alcator C-Mod at MIT, one of the three facilities critical to continued U.S. leadership in fusion.

The truth is, that after years of operating on minimal budgets and essentially level funding, the domestic fusion program cannot absorb the proposed reductions without significant negative impacts to the program and our scientific and engineering contributions.

It is very important that this budget is changed, not only to save this year’s budget, but to protect future year’s budgets. The truth is that the U.S. has a growing commitment to ITER, the international plasma research reactor in France, that – without a change in the budget picture – will crowd out the rest of the fusion budget. Some of the students at MIT, who’s education is on the chopping block, have put together an excellent website, www.fusionfuture.org that details the importance of this budget.

They have also put together an excellent graph on the future of the fusion budget: as you can see on the graph that the MIT student put together (at left), the purple part is the U.S. budget commitment to ITER, which will crowd out over 3/4 of the total budget.

ASP believes that the fusion budget should be increased significantly, up to the point where we think that we need to spend $30-40 billion over a 15 year period. But, until we get the political will for that level of funding, it is important in the short-term that the U.S. fusion program at least gets level funding. We need to meet our commitments to ITER and we need a vibrant domestic fusion program. These go hand-in-hand: one cannot exist without the other. If we allow our domestic program to languish away, we won’t be able to capitalize on the advancements in fusion science that will come.

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