Despite positive advice, US stay in ITER not settled yet
US Congress adviced to continue its role in ITER
This week, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest J. Moniz, has delivered his assessment of ITER's progress to the US congress. In this report, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends that the U.S. should continue its participation in ITER for at least two more years, and then reevaluate its progress.
Positive reforms and the best chance for achieving burning plasma
The DOE report observed that the ITER organization has reformed itself significantly under Director-General Bernard Bigot. The report can thus be seen as a vote of confidence in Bigot's reforms. Besides that, the DOE states that the project still represents the best chance for achieving burning plasma:
ITER remains the best candidate today to demonstrate sustained burning plasma, which is a necessary precursor to demonstrating fusion energy power. Having fully assessed the facts regarding the U.S. contributions to the ITER project, I recommend that the U.S. remain a partner in the ITER project through FY 2018 and focus on efforts related to First Plasma.
No certainty yet: US Congress and Senate divided over required budget
Despite the positive advice, the continuation in the ITER project is not ascertained yet as it will come at a price. In their report, the DOE also stated that significantly more budget will be required for the ITER project in order to cover increasing costs. The budget has to be approved first in the fiscal year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which has be passed by committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
While House appropriators included money for the project in fiscal 2017, the Senate did not do this. It will now have to become clear whether the Senate would like to move ahead with the project and bring in the required extra money at the expense of other priorities of the Office of Science.
More information about the U.S. participation to the ITER project can be found here:
- DOE Report: U.S. Participation in the ITER Project
- Nature article: U.S. adviced to stick with troubled ITER project
- ScienceMag: U.S. should stick with troubled ITER fusion project, Secretary of Energy recommends