With Cadarache, France now chosen as the site for ITER, the predominant
discussion item at the July 19 meeting of DOE's Fusion Energy Sciences
Advisory Committee (FESAC) was how U.S. participation in ITER will impact
the domestic fusion research effort. As a 10-percent partner in ITER,
the U.S. is expecting to contribute a little more than $1.0 billion
over approximately the next 10 years as the facility is built. Committee
members worried that potential cuts to the domestic program in order
to support ITER would leave U.S. researchers in a position of not being
able to get the maximum benefit from the international facility.
ITER is an opportunity for the U.S. community to do research on a scale
that would not otherwise be possible, Ray Orbach, the Director of DOE's
Office of Science, told the committee. He acknowledged that sacrifices
would be required but called for "unity," reminding FESAC
members that ITER would be "your machine." N. Anne Davies,
Associate Director for Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) at DOE, reviewed
how the FY 2006 budget request and the House and Senate Energy and Water
Development appropriations bills would affect the fusion programs. She
commented that there are "a lot of things swirling" in the
budget process. The committee also considered a report on the value
of the three major toroidal magnetic fusion facilities in the U.S. The
report, as well as the presentations given at this July 19 meeting,
can be found at http://www.ofes.fusion.doe.gov/More_HTML/FESAC_Charges_Reports.html.
"It was a most moving experience," Orbach said of the decision
on an ITER site. The parties came to agreement "for the good of
. It was the world coming together to solve a common problem
in a collective fashion." He cautioned that "in some ways
this was the easiest part." The next steps are to develop some
form of treaty or executive agreement on the project itself, and to
select a Director General. Although he acknowledged that it would require
"a fairly aggressive" schedule, he hoped an agreement could
be developed by the end of 2005 for the Administration and Congress
to start reviewing, with a formal agreement signed by the end of spring
2006. It is "terribly important" that the U.S. proves itself
a credible partner and that "the partners feel we are responsible
members of the ITER team," Orbach said. He also warned that "we
are going to run across different national approaches to issues every
step of the way."
To concerns about maintaining a robust domestic program, Orbach said
he has testified before Congress that a strong U.S. domestic program
is essential for the success of ITER. But he also stated that the balance
between ITER funding and the domestic program was "arbitrary,"
and said every community has had to make "sacrifices" when
a major new facility is built. "What I want to avoid," he
said, is "any conflict between the domestic program and ITER
This is your machine."
Orbach told the committee that it is time to "think globally.
As we move into this new world, we need to think about the total resources
available on a worldwide basis" for fusion research. He emphasized
that ITER is a presidential priority, and while the fusion program would
have to be reoriented around it, "the strengths we bring to the
table must not be injured in the process." A FESAC member pointed
out that for the next 10 years ITER would be a construction project,
not a research facility, and worried about keeping the program and researchers
"on ice for 10 years." Orbach replied that other major facilities
have taken years to build, and other research communities have learned
how to "keep their programs alive." "Look, we're all
worried about it," he added, but "we haven't worked this hard
to cause damage" to U.S. fusion efforts. He also pointed out that
when a big new project is built, it often raises funding for the core
programs with it.
Ned Sauthoff of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory discussed the
current status of the ITER project and efforts to reduce cost and risks.
"We have long recognized," he said, "that probably the
biggest risk is management." The project will require the seamless
working of international and domestic teams and the melding of different
approaches to project management. Sauthoff estimated that the cost for
the U.S. contribution could reach as high as $1.4 billion, but by finalizing
the project's scope, reducing the need for contingencies, and reducing
risks, he hoped it could be brought in line with a cap of $1.122 billion
imposed by OMB in the FY 2006 budget request.
Davies commended Orbach for his contributions to bringing the site
selection process "to fruition in a way that was satisfactory to
everyone." She noted that both House and Senate appropriators had
rejected the cuts to the domestic fusion program that the Administration
had proposed in order to support ITER, including suspending the fusion
materials science research program, reducing the high energy density
research program, eliminating an inertial confinement fusion concept,
and cutting back other FES programs. She explained that the Administration's
proposed reductions to FES in future years were "formula-driven"
by the deficit-reduction effort and that Orbach was "doing battle"
to increase those levels.
Both the House and Senate bills sought to restore funding for the domestic
fusion program, Davies said, although Senate funding of ITER was dependent
upon a site selection decision. She also described an amendment to the
Senate bill by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), chair of the Senate Energy
and Water Development appropriations subcommittee, calling for a Government
Accountability Office review of FES programs and the possibility of
shutting down one of the main U.S. fusion facilities. She referred to
the fusion budget as "in play," and voiced hope that "we
don't lose any facilities
or any big chunks" of the fusion
Jill Dahlburg of the Naval Research Laboratory introduced, for the
committee's consideration, a report by the FESAC Facilities Panel on
the three major U.S. fusion facilities (Alcator C-Mod, DIII-D, and NSTX).
In requesting the report, Orbach expressed a commitment to "a strong
base fusion research program" but indicated that he wanted to operate
facilities only if they enabled "unique and important research."
The panel concluded that the three facilities have diverse but complementary
characteristics, that each is a leading element of the world fusion
program, that they are highly effective as a group, and that they contribute
to U.S. leadership in many aspects of fusion energy sciences. Pointing
out that the next major opportunity for fusion research will be offshore,
the panel called for continued operation of all three facilities, and
stated that "the loss of any of the three
jeopardize the ability of U.S. researchers to perform relevant research,
and thus would undermine the current U.S. position of international