Labs and Facilities

FYI covers major policy developments related to universities, national laboratories, and other Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, especially those relevant to the physical sciences.

 

Congress is working to pass fiscal year 2023 spending legislation by the end of this week. Although the finalized package falls well short of the ambitious funding targets set in the CHIPS and Science Act, it does include funding increases across science agencies that generally keep up with inflation and in some cases delivers double-digit percentage increases.

The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Lab has performed a nuclear fusion experiment that released more energy than was applied to it. The accomplishment realizes an idea first posited six decades ago and will have applications in nuclear warhead stewardship, but using the method for practical energy generation remains a distant prospect.

DOE has finished allocating a one-time $1.55 billion boost to facilities and equipment projects across its Office of Science. Major priorities included shoring up funding for international projects and moving light source upgrades forward, while projects still in their earlier phases tended to receive lesser shares of the total.

An independent review has linked the recent one-year delay in the launch of NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission to staff shortages and inadequate communications across Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managing the project.

With the launch of a new milestone-based funding program for commercial ventures, the U.S. is implementing a shift in its fusion energy policy that has been brewing for nearly two years. However, questions remain about how public programs will mesh with private investment, and what role the international ITER megaproject will play.

In the run-up to the next Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel exercise, physicists are showing enthusiasm for building a new collider on U.S. soil, and diversity and community engagement are also getting new attention.

The new CHIPS and Science Act outlines an ambitious vision for research infrastructure, encompassing large-scale science facility construction projects as well as initiatives in areas such as quantum computing, high-intensity lasers, and research reactors.

Following a year of negotiation, a partisan spending bill called the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to be signed into law within days, delivering the largest-ever federal response to climate change as well as $2 billion to bolster science facility projects at DOE national labs.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought new urgency to the Department of Energy’s efforts to expand U.S. production capacity for critical isotopes, some of which are solely sourced from Russia or rely on precursor materials from the country.

At a House Science Committee hearing last week, Electron-Ion Collider Project Director Jim Yeck reported that without a higher budget he anticipates personnel crucial to the project will need to be laid off. Meanwhile, Fermilab Director Lia Merminga said that the flagship neutrino project LBNF/DUNE is progressing smoothly following a period of cost growth and schedule delays.