The Biden administration is requesting a 6% budget increase for the Department of Energy Office of Science, even as the office shoulders an increasing cost burden from its construction portfolio and expands its work on special initiatives.
In its fiscal year 2022 budget request, the Biden administration is seeking a 6% increase for the Department of Energy Office of Science that would bring its topline to $7.44 billion. That level would build on a series of increases that has added more than $2 billion to the office’s annual budget over the last decade, but it would also be a much smaller proportional increase than what the administration is requesting for DOE programs in areas such as renewable and nuclear energy.
House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) expressed disappointment with the size of the proposed increase at a recent hearing, citing the office’s burgeoning portfolio of major construction projects. She warned that inadequate funding could threaten construction schedules or squeeze support for research. Bipartisan legislation the committee is advancing would recommend Congress appropriate $8.8 billion to the office for fiscal year 2022, rising to $11.1 billion by fiscal year 2026.
Aside from the office’s budget, the administration’s request offers details on a number of new program proposals and project developments. These include proposals to create office-wide programs in STEM training for underrepresented communities and in biopreparedness, as well as new initiatives in climate research. In addition, the request discusses new standalone programs for accelerator technology and isotope production, and it reports that cost estimates for a number of construction projects have significantly increased.
Detailed figures from the budget request are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
Over the past several years, the Office of Science has launched several R&D initiatives that cut across the office’s component programs, with funding drawn from contributing programs’ budgets. The Biden administration plans to expand those initiatives as well as create new ones.
Accelerator technology. Funding for a recently launched initiative in accelerator science and technology would ramp up from $11 million to $41 million under the request. The initiative supports R&D on next-generation components for accelerator facilities and is mostly separate from the Office of Science’s new Office of Accelerator R&D and Production (ARDAP), which is contributing $5 million to the initiative. Most of ARDAP’s total proposed $24 million budget is built around the Accelerator Stewardship program that was previously housed in the High Energy Physics program and currently has a $17 million budget. However, $1.7 million is for a new Accelerator Production program that would support public-private partnerships that “mature accelerator technology and ensure adequate domestic sources of critical accelerator components.” In its first year, the program plans to focus on “advanced superconducting wire and cable, superconducting RF cavities, and high-efficiency power sources for accelerators.”
Other existing initiatives. Under the request, funding for quantum information science would increase 11% to $301 million, offering continuing support for DOE’s QIS research centers and a quantum networking project, among many other efforts. Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) funding would increase 3% to $129 million, microelectronics funding would increase 58% to $48 million, and funding for work related to critical materials and minerals would increase 47% to $25 million.
Biopreparedness. Building off the “National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory” that DOE set up last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration proposes to establish a “Biopreparedness Research Virtual Environment” (BRaVE) with an initial budget of $22 million. According to DOE, BRaVE will “provide a single portal through which a distributed network of capabilities and scientists can work together on multidisciplinary and multiprogram priorities and quickly address urgent national challenges when needed.” DOE further states, “The overall goals of the virtual environment are to understand the function of whole biological systems, effectively integrating knowledge from distributed datasets, individual process components, and individual component models in an AI/ML-enabled, open-access computational environment.”
STEM workforce diversity. The administration proposes to create a STEM training initiative called RENEW (Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce), with an initial budget of $30 million. DOE states that RENEW will leverage the Office of Science’s “world-unique national laboratories, user facilities, and other research infrastructures to provide undergraduate and graduate training opportunities for students and academic institutions not currently well represented in the U.S. S&T ecosystem.” It adds that expected beneficiaries include Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, “individuals from groups historically underrepresented in STEM,” as well as “students from communities with environmental justice impacts and the EPSCoR jurisdictions.” DOE also notes that the program is intended to build up a talent pool that will feed into the department and its national labs.
Biological and Environmental Research
The administration proposes to increase the BER budget by 10% to $828 million, primarily to bolster its support for climate modeling. Accordingly, within the BER topline, funding for Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences would increase 20% to $422 million, while the current $403 million budget for Biological Systems Science would increase only slightly.
Virtual climate lab. Building on an idea considered under the Obama administration, DOE states that it plans to establish a “National Virtual Climate Laboratory” that will “serve as a unified access point for engagement with key climate science capabilities at the DOE labs.”
Urban Integrated Field Labs. DOE also proposes to move ahead with a specific facet of the virtual lab concept called the “Urban Integrated Field Laboratories.” The request explains that the field labs will be “dedicated to developing the science framework for advancing observational and prediction capabilities to tackle the following interdependent challenges: constraining climate changes and its impacts on all scales across urban regions; evaluating the mitigation-potential for emerging energy technologies in urban regions and beyond; and addressing environmental justice by enabling neighborhood-scale evaluation of climate impacts and energy needs.”
HBCU/MSI-affiliated climate center. In addition, DOE states it will begin planning for a “National Climate Laboratory or center” that would be “affiliated with” a Historically Black College or University or another Minority Serving Institution. DOE notes that it anticipates funding would be provided through legislation responding to President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
Basic Energy Sciences
(Image credit – ORNL)
Under the request, the BES budget would increase 2% to $2.3 billion. Within that, funding for the two main BES research programs would together increase 13% to $939 million. Construction funding would decrease as the budget profiles ramp down for upgrades in progress at the Spallation Neutron Source and Advanced Photon Source facilities, while budgets for other projects would be kept generally flat.
Spallation Neutron Source upgrade. Funding for a project to double the power of Oak Ridge National Lab’s Spallation Neutron Source is set to ramp down from $55 million to $17 million. The project received the go-ahead to begin construction last fall and Congress has already appropriated the bulk of its total budget.
SNS Second Target Station. The news is not so positive for a major follow-on expansion of the SNS facility. DOE notes that when the project passed its last management milestone in November, its point cost estimate rose 76% to $2.24 billion, with a new range estimate of $1.8 billion to $3 billion. The project’s completion date, which includes contingency padding, was also kicked back five years to 2037. DOE explains the cost had not been officially updated since the project passed its initial milestone in 2009 and that the new figures derive from a “deeper understanding of requirements and systems” gained in the interim and from a decision to increase the project’s contingency budget. The administration proposes to throttle back the project’s budget from $42 million to $32 million with an aim of settling on a firm baseline cost and schedule in 2025.
High Flux Isotope Reactor. Although DOE gave initial approval last year for a replacement of the pressure vessel of Oak Ridge’s High Flux Isotope Reactor, the project has not progressed to the point of inclusion in the budget request. The Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee recommended the overhaul last summer in order to upgrade the reactor’s capabilities, ensure its long-term durability, and convert it to use high-assay low-enriched uranium, with the goal of completing work by the mid-2030s.
Linac Coherent Light Source II. Although Congress had already appropriated the full $1.05 billion needed to complete work on the LCLS-II X-ray free electron laser facility at SLAC, pandemic-related disruptions led to new costs amounting to more than $90 million. DOE has reprogrammed $26 million to alleviate the shortfall and Congress has already kicked in $36 million. Now, DOE is requesting $32 million to cover the remainder.
LCLS-II upgrade. An upgrade to increase the energy of LCLS-II is being planned even ahead of the facility’s completion. However, DOE reports that in the past year its point estimate for the upgrade’s cost has risen more than 50% to $660 million, well outside the original range estimate of $290 million to $480 million. The department explains the increase is the “result of a maturing design effort that identified additional costs across the project scope, added scope for a new superconducting electron source, and increased contingency to address several future risks.” These risks include questions about how far the capabilities of the facility’s cryomodules can be pressed, though DOE notes that issue could be mitigated by adding more cryomodules at additional cost. The project is expected to be baselined in the second half of 2022 and the administration proposes it receive steady funding of $53 million.
Advanced Light Source upgrade. The planned upgrade to increase the brightness of the ALS facility at Berkeley Lab was baselined at $590 million in April, an increase of 44% over the previous point estimate. DOE attributes the increased cost to design maturation and the addition of radiation shielding and safety-mandated seismic structural upgrades. The administration seeks to ramp up the project’s funding from $62 million to $75 million.
Advanced Photon Source upgrade. Construction work has started on an upgrade to the APS facility at Argonne National Lab, and the $815 million project has already been mostly funded. Accordingly, its budget is set to ramp down from $160 million to $106 million. DOE currently expects the facility to shut down in June 2022 to accommodate installation of new equipment.
Other projects. Under the request, funding for beamline construction at Brookhaven National Lab’s National Synchrotron Light Source II facility would increase from $5.5 million to $15 million, and funding for equipment recapitalization at the five Nanoscale Science Research Centers would increase from $5 million to $15 million. A planned cryomodule maintenance facility at SLAC would receive $3 million for early design work.
Energy Frontier Research Centers. The Biden administration proposes to increase funding for DOE’s EFRC program from $115 million to $129 million, with the additional funding targeted toward "clean energy research in underrepresented communities and institutions.”
High Energy Physics
The HEP program budget would increase 3% to $1.06 billion under the request. To facilitate comparisons, this bulletin does not count the Accelerator Stewardship program’s budget within the fiscal year 2021 HEP budget since it has now been moved into the new standalone Accelerator R&D and Production Office. Within the HEP topline, core research programs would generally see small budget increases that would not substantially alleviate the long-term funding squeeze recently spotlighted by an independent review.
LBNF/DUNE. Funding for DOE’s flagship neutrino experiment would ramp up $7 million under the request to $180 million. Uncertainty continues to swirl around the project’s overall cost. Last year, DOE raised its point cost estimate by 40% to $2.6 billion when costs for excavating the project’s underground detector chambers rose, even as the project’s contingency budget expanded to account for risks stemming from shortfalls in international commitments. This year, DOE reports that efforts to secure further partnership commitments continue and that the maturation of plans for detector installation has revealed those costs will now be “significantly higher” than previously anticipated.
According to DOE, in January an independent review recommended the project’s cost range be reevaluated. If the top end of that range rises only a little higher than the $2.6 billion point estimate that DOE is still using, department rules require a reassessment of the project’s basic design. To avoid that scenario, project leaders have been considering options to include fewer detectors than the four initially envisioned while retaining the capacity to add more. DOE states the project is aiming to establish a baseline cost later this year and to begin construction in 2022, with the preliminary goal of completing the project by no later than 2034.
PIP-II. The administration proposes to ramp up funding from $79 million to $90 million for an upgrade to the Fermilab accelerator complex that is required for LBNF/DUNE. The project was baselined in December with a total cost of $978 million, $90 million more than last year’s point estimate. According to DOE, development work decreased the estimated cost for civil construction while increasing the estimated cost for technical equipment. The project’s completion date, which includes contingency padding, was pushed back three years to the end of 2032 following the “reassessment of delivery schedules for international in-kind contributions.”
Mu2e. Although the budget for Fermilab’s upcoming Muon-to-Electron Conversion Experiment (Mu2e) had been fully appropriated, pandemic-related disruptions caused the project to exceed its baseline cost. Congress appropriated $2 million in fiscal year 2021 to address the situation and DOE is requesting a further $13 million.
Fermilab control systems. The administration is requesting $2 million to start a new project called Accelerator Controls Operations Research Network (ACORN), which is expected to cost between $100 million and $142 million altogether. DOE explains, “This project will replace [Fermilab’s] dated accelerator control system with a modern system which is maintainable, sustainable, and capable of utilizing advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a high-performance accelerator for the future.”
Large Hadron Collider upgrades. The administration proposes to ramp down funding from $73 million to $40 million for an upcoming upgrade to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and associated detector upgrades. The pandemic has significantly impacted the upgrade effort and DOE states that the proposed budget will “focus support on critical path items to best maintain international schedule synchronization for the project.” The National Science Foundation is requesting $36 million for its contribution to the detector upgrades.
CMB-S4. The administration is seeking $5 million for early work on the Cosmic Microwave Background Stage-4 experiment, which is expected to cost between $320 million and $395 million in total.
The FES budget would increase by less than 1% to $675 million under the request, well less than amounts being envisioned in Congress. The Energy Act of 2020, which was signed into law in December, recommended that Congress increase the FES budget to nearly $1 billion before reducing it slightly in future years, while the House Science Committee’s DOE bill envisions a more-than-$1 billion budget that would then increase further in future years.
ITER. Funding for the international ITER fusion energy project based in France would decline from $242 million to $221 million under the request, of which $41 million would be for cash obligations. The Energy Act recommended an immediate increase to $374 million before decreasing to $281 million for subsequent years. The Science Committee’s bill proposes $300 million for fiscal year 2022, rising to $350 million by fiscal year 2024.
ITER-based research. Looking ahead to ITER’s anticipated achievement of “first plasma” in late 2025, DOE requests $2 million for a new “ITER research” program. It explains the funding would support the organization of a team that will prepare the U.S. fusion research community to be “ready on day one to benefit from the scientific and technological opportunities offered by ITER.”
Long-range facilities studies. DOE is requesting $3 million for studies on potential future fusion energy facilities, such as a U.S.-based pilot plant, noting such an effort was a high-priority recommendation of the long-range plan for fusion energy and plasma science released last year.
MPEx. The administration proposes to increase equipment funding for Oak Ridge National Lab’s Materials Plasma Exposure eXperiment by $4 million to $25 million. The project is expected to cost between $86 million and $175 million and DOE plans to establish a firm baseline cost in fiscal year 2022.
Tokamak facilities. The administration proposes slight decreases in funding for the two DOE-supported tokamak user facilities. DOE plans to continue ramping up operations at the DIII-D facility in San Diego to 90% of optimal hours, after it ran for only 20% in fiscal year 2020. Repair and recovery work will continue on the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab's National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX-U), which suffered a major failure in 2016. DOE states that the restart of operations there “may slip beyond” fiscal year 2022 due to pandemic impacts.
Private fusion ventures. Under the request, funding would increase by $1 million to $6 million for the INFUSE (Innovation Network for Fusion Energy) program, which supports collaborations between national labs and private-sector fusion efforts. DOE notes the program is considering opening to universities as well. The request does not mention the “milestone-based development program” mandated by the Energy Act, which would provide reimbursement for private fusion ventures once they achieve certain technological milestones. The act recommended Congress provide the program $65 million in fiscal year 2022, but Congress did not provide the $45 million recommended for the current fiscal year.
MEC upgrade. The administration proposes to roll back funding from $17 million to $5 million for a power upgrade to the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) end station at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source facility. DOE initiated the project in response to a 2017 National Academies report spotlighting that the U.S. lags internationally in establishing facilities for laser research at the highest powers currently achievable. The Science Committee’s bill endorses the project, though it does not recommend a budget profile. The bill would also direct the Office of Science to establish a high-intensity laser research initiative, recommending initial funding of $50 million.
(Image credit – FRIB)
The NP budget would increase 13% to $720 million under the request. The budget for the Office of Science’s Isotope R&D and Production program would increase 15% to $90 million and has been moved out of the NP program into its own office. To facilitate comparisons, this bulletin does not count the isotope program’s budget within the fiscal year 2021 NP budget.
Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. FRIB, a nuclear science user facility at Michigan State University, received its final construction appropriation last year. The facility commissioned its linear accelerator in April and is expecting to begin research operations in early 2022. Accordingly, DOE proposes to increase its operating budget from $52 million to $82 million.
CEBAF. The administration proposes to increase the operating budget for the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility at Jefferson Lab from $122 million to $154 million
Electron-Ion Collider. The administration seeks a marginal increase in the $30 million budget for the flagship EIC project at Brookhaven National Lab and has kicked back its completion date, which includes contingency padding, from 2030 to 2033. DOE states the schedule shift reflects the project’s current enacted funding level and “additional schedule contingency as recommended by peer review.” The project’s range estimate for total cost is $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion with a preliminary point estimate of $2.25 billion. DOE states that it expects to establish a baseline cost in 2023.
Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay. Equipment funding for early work on a “ton-scale” experiment to detect the theorized neutrinoless double beta decay process would remain at about $1.4 million under the request. NP program head Tim Hallman reported in March that a double beta decay portfolio review is taking place in July and that he anticipates funding for a ton-scale experiment is “going to be challenging.”
Isotope program. Within the newly independent isotope program, funding for research would increase 38% to $37 million, supporting the initiation of core research groups at Argonne and Idaho National Labs, among other efforts. Funding for the planned U.S. Stable Isotope Production and Research Center at Oak Ridge National Lab would remain essentially level at $15 million. The project’s point estimate for total cost has been revised downward from $298 million to $250 million, though its completion date, which includes contingency padding, has been pushed back from 2027 to 2031.
Advanced Scientific Computing Research
Under the request, the ASCR budget would increase 2% to $1.04 billion. Currently, DOE is preparing for the completion of the Frontier exascale computing system at Oak Ridge National Lab later this year and the Aurora exascale system at Argonne National Lab in 2022. Accordingly, the program’s overall expenditures on exascale computing are set to ramp down from $439 million to $404 million. Funding for research programs and computing facilities would increase modestly.
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