House Appropriations FY 21 Fusion Mark

July 15, 2020

The Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has made its recommendations for fusion and other programs for the Fiscal Year 2021 which begins on October 1 2020. The recommendations must still be passed by the full House of Representatives, merged with a similar bill working its way through the Senate, and then be signed by the President. As in past years it seems unlikely the FY2021 funding process will be completed by October 1.

The House bill would provide $681M for the DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, compared to $671M in the current FY2020 year and compared to the much lower $425M in the President's budget request to Congress (see FPN20-10). U.S. contributions to the ITER project would increase to $260M compared to $242M this year.

The House bill would also provide $560M for inertial confinement fusion within the DOE NNSA weapons budget, compared to $555M in the current year and compared to the President's budget request of $555M

Report language accompanying the marks is as follows:

The Fusion Energy Sciences program supports basic research and experimentation aiming to harness nuclear fusion for energy production.

Research. — Within available funds, the recommendation provides $20,000,000 for High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas, including activities for LaserNetUS. Within available funds, the recommendation includes $5,000,000 for the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) research and development program. The fiscal year 2020 Act directed the Department to provide a plan on a possible cost share program for reactor technologies. The Committee is still awaiting this plan and directs the Department to provide the plan not later than 30 days after enactment of this Act and prior to any funds being obligated for these purposes. The recommendation includes $12,000,000 for the Materials Plasma Exposure eXperiment.

Construction. — The Committee recommends $260,000,000 for the U.S. contribution to the ITER project, of which not less than $100,000,000 is for in-cash contributions. The Committee continues to believe the ITER project represents an important step forward for energy sciences and has the potential to revolutionize the current understanding of fusion energy. The Department is directed to provide to the Committee not later than 180 days after enactment of this Act the performance baseline for the entire project, including an updated baseline for Sub-project 1 and a baseline for Sub-project 2.

Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Yield. — Within the ICF program, the recommendation includes $344,000,000 for the National Ignition Facility, $66,900,000 for the Z Facility, and not less than $80,000,000 for the OMEGA Laser Facility. Within funds provided for Facility Operations, not less than $31,000,000 shall be for the NNSA to manage target development and acquisition. The Committee looks forward to receiving the findings from the JASON Defense Advisory Panel's independent review in an expeditious manner.

In addition to the regular fiscal year funding, the bill proposes a "stimulus" package not limited to a particular fiscal year and not proposed by the President. That package includes: $65M for ITER, $110M for the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) Upgrade and $132 M for the Materials Plasma Exposure Experiment (MPEX).

The DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) has also been funding a small effort on fusion (roughly $10M per year) for several years. The Administration has proposed to terminate ARPA-E, but the House bill would provide ARPA-E with $435M compared to $425M this year and provides the following report language:

The Committee again strongly rejects the short-sighted proposal to terminate ARPA-E. Instead, the Committee continues investment in this transformational program and directs the Department to continue to spend funds provided on research and development and program direction. The Department shall not use any appropriated funds to plan or execute the termination of ARPA-E. The Department is directed to disburse funds appropriated for ARPA-E within a reasonable time period.