FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

New Director of the DOE Office of Science Addresses Advisory Committee

Richard M. Jones
Number 92 - July 14, 2009  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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William Brinkman, the new Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science had been in his new position for about two weeks when he appeared before the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee on July 9. Brinkman spoke to the committee for about 40 minutes, describing DOE’s science programs, the FY 2010 request, and his perspectives on several key issues. His presentation focused on the Office of Science’s three overarching themes: science for national needs, science for discovery, and national scientific user facilities. Among the topics he discussed were:

USER FACILITIES:

When commenting on DOE’s user facilities, Brinkman said Fermilab’s Tevatron will be kept in operation until the Large Hadron Collider “really starts doing things.” In discussing ITER, he told the committee that it was both a fusion experiment and an experiment in international partnerships. Brinkman described his pride in the large numbers of users for the department’s scientific facilities – especially the light sources. He wants to increase the number of users of the department’s nanoscale facilities.

OUTLOOK ON FY 2010 AND 2011 BUDGET REQUESTS:

“A good substantial increase” is how Brinkman described the FY 2010 request. He told the committee he did not know what the outlook was for the FY 2011 Office of Science budget request, adding that President Obama has pledged to double its funding. DOE support for education programs should increase.

ENERGY INNOVATION HUBS:

House and Senate appropriators did not provide funding in their versions of the FY 2010 bills to launch all eight Energy Innovation Hubs. Brinkman predicted that the program would start slowly, and grow in future years.

NUCLEAR ENERGY:

Regarding nuclear energy, Brinkman spoke of the need to consider the entire fuel cycle, and of the “very big challenge” in arriving at a solution for nuclear waste.

BALANCING SPENDING:

Brinkman said there was “a fairly decent balance between energy and research,” adding that the 40 percent now spent on research was “fairly reasonable.” More thought needs to be given, he told the committee, to strengthening science for national needs.

ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE:

Brinkman described how the public’s attitude has evolved, with many people now firmly in support of doing something about energy problems, and the need to transition from carbon-based sources. Doing so would reduce the need to find ways to control greenhouse gas emissions.

BASIC RESEARCH:

Brinkman’s final comments concerned the importance of basic research. A major challenge to the research community will be responding to national needs for new energy technologies, while ensuring the continuation of basic research. We “do not want to kill off” basic research in the search for new energy technologies, he told the committee, saying that it was DOE’s responsibility to support basic research.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095