Thursday, May 26, 2005

US ITER Funding In Doubt

Just as the ITER siting impasse appeard to be broken, comes news from New Scientist that the Congressional support for ITER has suddenly started to waffle.
The US is expected to cover 10% of ITER's cost - a portion estimated at $1.12 billion - spread between now and 2013. The Bush administration requested an increased sum of $49.5 million to become available in 2006, to fund ITER through the US Department of Energy (DOE).

But the appropriations committee in the House - which can suggest changes to the budget in bills that then go to the Senate for debate - objected to the source of the funding. It said two-thirds of the increase for ITER would come as a result of cuts in other US fusion research, against the committee's previous requests. Under the cuts, three major fusion research facilities could operate for a total of only 17 weeks in 2006 instead of the planned 48, it said.

Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert has recommended a provision in the budget that no money will be committed to ITER until somebody can figure out where it's supposed to come from. David Goldston, chief of staff of the House Science Committee, says
We think, like the Department of Energy, that you can't keep the fusion programme exactly as it is and also do ITER. There's no way to do ITER as an add-on.
"Goldston says that unless a compromise is made, 'US participation in ITER is unlikely'."