Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ITER Gets Clipped

It looks like the Obama Administration is cutting back its support for ITER in next year's Federal Energy Budget.
...funding for DOE’s fusion energy sciences (FES) program gets clipped from an estimated $426 million this year to a requested $380 million next year, a reduction of 10.8%. That reduction would come out of the United States’s contribution to the international fusion experiment, ITER, which will be built in Cadarache, France. Under the proposed budget, ITER would get $80 million next year, down from an estimated $135 million this year. The decrease marks the latest dip on the ITER budget roller coaster. In 2008, Congress zeroed out $150 million of spending on ITER in a squabble with the White House. The project got $124 million the following year.

Ironically, the current cut comes about because ITER itself has slowed down as researchers contend with design revisions that could double its $7 billion price tag. “We need to make sure that we don’t get ahead of the project as a whole,” says Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, home of the U.S. ITER project office. The proposed $80 million would keep U.S. researchers fully engaged next year, Mason says. However, he worries that the dip this year will make the required funding increases in 2012 and beyond all the larger and harder to achieve.
I looked at the ongoing design review in ITER Back To The Drawing Board. I believe ITER is in big trouble for two reasons. One is that the engineering is not solid even for an experimental project and also that even if it is successful in its 40 or 50 year time line it will never produce a commercially viable fusion reactor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It kills me that, in the middle of the worst international financial crisis in decades, we are still financing ITER to that degree.

I say, cut it down to bare-bones until certain economic factors return to normal. Then refund.