House and Senate conferees continue work on the massive energy policy
bill now containing reworked language on the Department of Energy's
Office of Science. The plan to have this legislation on the
President's desk before now has been shelved, with some now
predicting that it will not be until November that this authorization
legislation is completed. Whether it will be passed is still a large
unknown, as new provisions recently added to this bill in a House -
Senate conference make an already controversial bill even more so.
A Discussion Draft provided by the conference dated September 29 has
a 130-page section identified as Title IX, Research and Development.
This title covers many research topics, ranging from fossil fuels to
nuclear power. Of prime interest to the physics community are the 24
pages in Subtitle F, Science. If this authorization bill is enacted,
it will provide guidance to appropriators as they determine future
budgets for the Office of Science. It will also provide program
Under this legislation, the authorization level for the research,
development, demonstration, and commercial application activities of
the Office of Science would increase 45% in the four years between FY
2004 (which started two weeks ago) and FY 2008. Authorization levels
are specified for each of the four years. There was a conflict
between some of these authorization levels in the House and Senate
versions of the bill. In each instance, the lower House numbers are
used in the Discussion Draft.
Also detailed are allocations for specific programs. For Fusion
Energy Sciences, conferees usually used the higher Senate figures.
The Spallation Neutron Source authorization levels were only shown in
the House bill, and they are employed in the conference version.
Nanoscale Science and Engineering levels used both House and Senate
numbers in different years. ITER allocations were also specified in
the Discussion Draft.
There are quite a few pages of program direction. There are three
and one-half pages of requirements regarding "United States
Participation in ITER." The Energy Secretary is authorized to
negotiate an agreement for US participation, with a clearly defined
financial contribution, an American component requirement, full
access to data and an equitable share of experiments requirements,
and a provision requiring a U.S. role in collective decision making.
No funds are to be expended until the Energy Secretary submits "a
report [to Congress] describing how United States participation in
ITER will be funded without reducing funding for other programs in
the Office of Science, including other fusion programs. . . ."
ITER is found to be unlikely or infeasible, the Secretary must
provide a plan to implement the Fusion Ignition Research Experiment.
There is also language on the Fusion Energy Sciences Program
requiring a plan, with cost estimates, to demonstrate fusion-produced
electric power on the grid or for hydrogen production. Other
language caps the total project cost for the Spallation Neutron
Source at $1,411.7 million. Another section requires a plan to
maintain, construct, close and modify science facilities and
infrastructure. There is also a section on catalysis research, with
allocation numbers. Still other language pertains to nanoscale
science and engineering research, advanced scientific computing, and
the genomes to life program. A R&D plan is also required for
material science issues relating to advanced fission reactors and
The R&D title does not have language pertaining to the establishment
of an Under Secretary for Science. This provision, in another
section of the bill, is still under discussion by the conferees.