FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2012 Senate Appropriations Bill for the Department of Energy: Science

Richard M. Jones
Number 109 - September 13, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

Adjust text size enlarge text shrink text    |    Print this pagePrint this page    |     Bookmark and Share     |    rss feed for FYI

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.  Accompanying this bill, H.R. 2354, is Senate Report 112-75 that details the committee’s funding and policy recommendations that were developed by subcommittee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and her colleagues.  This FYI will summarize the provisions of the committee’s report for the Office of Science, and the Plutonium-238 Production Restart Project under the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy activities.  The full committee report may be viewed here.   Page numbers in the committee report are provided for reference and additional information.  All numbers in this FYI are taken from page 124 of the Senate committee report.  See FYI #73 for the House report language.

NUCLEAR ENERGY – PLUTONIUM-238 PRODUCTION RESTART PROJECT

Under a section entitled “Radiological Facilities Management” the report states:

“Plutonium-238 Production Restart Project.—The Committee provides no funding for the Plutonium-238 Production Restart project.” (page 84)

Pu-238 is used by NASA as an energy source for its deep space probes.  The House appropriations bill also provided no funding for this project. )

OFFICE OF SCIENCE

The introductory paragraph of the committee report in the section entitled Title III, Department of Energy states:

“The Committee’s highest priority is accelerating breakthroughs in clean energy technologies to reduce the Nation’s dependence on foreign oil and developing carbon-free sources of energy that will change the way the United States produces and consumes energy. Increases to ARPA–E should accelerate the commercialization of these technologies and a shift of funding in the Office of Science toward goal-oriented research will focus limited investments.” (page 75)

The FY 2011 appropriation was $4,857.7 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $5,416.1 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $4,800.0 million, a decline of $57.7 million or 1.2 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $4,842.7 million, a decline of $15.0 million or 0.3 percent.

There is important language in the report on page 89 regarding the committee’s support for the Office of Science and its identification of “three clear priorities for basic scientific research,” the establishment of an independent Office of Science Advisory Committee, and under a section entitled “Project Management” a directive that the Department of Energy should “create a performance ranking of all ongoing multi-year research projects” “by comparing current performance with original project goals.”

Basic Energy Sciences

The FY 2011 appropriation was $1,678.2 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $1,985.0 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $1,688.2 million, an increase of $10.0 million or 0.6 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $1,693.9 million, an increase of $15.7 million or 0.9 percent.

Selections from the report follow (page 89):

“The Committee recommends $1,693,860,000 for Basic Energy Sciences. Of these funds, $151,400,000 is provided for construction activities as requested in the budget. The remaining $1,542,460,000 is for research. Within the research funds provided, up to $100,000,000 shall be used to support the 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers. The Committee encourages the Department to continue interim science and management reviews during these centers’ 5-year award period to maintain proper oversight and ensure that the centers continue to pursue fundamental research needed to accelerate breakthroughs in clean energy technologies.

“The Committee recommends $24,300,000 for the Fuels from Sunlight energy innovation hub and $20,000,000 for a new Hub for Batteries and Energy Storage. The Committee also recommends $10,000,000 for predictive modeling of internal combustion engines. . . . ”

“The Committee also recommends $37,000,000 for major items of equipment, including $11,500,000 for new instruments and $5,500,000 for a power upgrade at the Spallation Neutron Source at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, $8,000,000 for design and engineering work to enhance the capabilities of the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC, and $12,000,000 for equipment for the new National Synchrotron Light Source facility at Brookhaven. The Committee recommends no funding for upgrades to the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory or to build a new electron microscope. The Committee is concerned about outyear liabilities for major construction projects and upgrades to facilities at a time of flat or declining budgets. Upgrades to the Advanced Photon Source and the Linac Coherent Light Source both have estimated costs of over $300,000,000. The Office of Science should consider phasing these projects to reflect the highest priority or demonstrate how it can build both concurrently without significant impacts to basic research.

“The Committee recommends $20,000,000 for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR] to support science and technology programs in States that have historically received relatively less Federal research funding.

“The Committee directs the Office of Basic Energy Sciences [BES] to implement the recommendations in the April 2010 Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee report on ways to strengthen the link between basic research and industry. . . . ”

“The Committee understands that catalysis is the key enabling technology for transportation fuel production today and further advances in catalysis are required to develop advanced fuels from domestic sources that use the country’s existing energy infrastructure and are the lowest cost path to reducing oil imports. The Committee encourages the Office of Science to continue catalysis research.  The Committee also encourages the Office of Science in partnership with universities to support research and development of novel device materials for alternative energy applications.

“The Committee encourages the Department of Energy in partnership with universities to support research and development of advanced nanostructure polymer-particle composite materials for improved ultra-capacitor devices. The Committee also encourages the Department to continue funding to support research and development needs of graduate and post-graduate science programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

Biological and Environmental Research

The FY 2011 appropriation was $611.8 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $717.9 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $547.1 million, a decline of $64.7 million or 10.6 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $621.8 million, an increase of $10.0 million or 1.6 percent.

Selections from the report follow (page 91):

“The Committee recommends $295,079,000 for climate and environmental sciences. The Committee recognizes the unique contributions of this program in advancing climate research. DOE has stationary and mobile facilities around the world that collect data on climate change and the world’s best high-performance computers to develop sophisticated climate models to help decisionmakers understand the impact of climate change. Despite advances in climate models, there is still uncertainty in predicting how climate change may impact future energy use, land use, food production, and water resources and affect regional stability. The Committee supports DOE’s efforts in improving the reliability and accuracy of climate models by resolving two major areas of uncertainty -- the effect of clouds and aerosols on climate. The Committee encourages DOE to continue using data obtained from satellite sensors operated by other Federal agencies in addition to ground based data to produce the most accurate and reliable information for climate modeling.

“The Committee also supports research related to producing biomass-based biofuels to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil-based transportation fuels. . . .  The Committee believes that synthetic biology, which involves designing new biological parts, devices and systems for specific purposes, will accelerate major breakthroughs not only in biofuels, but also in other important energy and environmental missions of the Department. The Committee directs the Secretary of Energy, not later than 9 months after enactment of this act, in consultation with other relevant Federal agencies, the academic community, research based nonprofit entities, and the private sector, to submit a comprehensive synthetic biology plan for federally supported research and development activities that will support the energy and environmental missions of the Department and enable a competitive synthetic biology industry in the United States. . . .”

“Within the funds provided, $20,000,000 shall be used for radiobiology to help determine health risks from exposures to low levels of ionizing radiation to properly protect radiation workers and the general public. The Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan is an opportunity to learn about the impacts of the disaster on human health and apply lessons learned to make more informed decisions on protection if a similar accident occurs in the future, including dose trip points for evacuation and shelter-in-place orders.  Within the funds provided, $12,000,000 is to continue nuclear medicine research with human application. The Committee notes that DOE-funded nuclear medicine research has led to numerous achievements in patient care, such as cutting-edge nuclear medicine imaging and therapy procedures, including PET scans, that are crucial for identifying the presence of cancer in the body and cardiac stress tests to analyze heart function.”

Advanced Scientific Computing Research

The FY 2011 appropriation was $422.0 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $465.6 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $427.1 million, an increase of $5.1 million or 1.2 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $441.6 million, an increase of $19.6 million or 4.6 percent.

Selections from the report follow (page 92):

“The Committee recommends $90,000,000 for the exascale initiative to spur U.S. innovation and increase the country’s ability to address critical national challenges.  The Committee understands that exascale computing will help maintain U.S. industrial competitiveness. In particular, high-tech industries such as transportation, aerospace, nuclear energy, and petroleum will increasingly rely on high-performance computing, especially when traditional experiments would be impossible, dangerous, or inordinately costly to perform.

“The Committee understands that the Department will have the lead Government role in computing research and development. The Department’s role in developing more advanced computing platforms is even more important with the elimination of the DARPA High Performance Computing program. For this reason, the Committee supports the budget request for the Leadership Computing Facilities, which will enable Oak Ridge and Argonne National Laboratories to move forward with upgrades to their Cray XT5 and IBM Glue [Blue] Gene/P systems, respectively. These upgrades will ensure that they remain on track to be the most powerful supercomputers in the world and represent an important step in the Department’s research effort to develop the first exascale system.”

Also see page 75 of the committee report for important additional language on DOE’s Exascale Initiative.

High Energy Physics

The FY 2011 appropriation was $795.4 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $797.2 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $797.2 million, an increase of $1.8 million or 0.2 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $780.2 million, a decrease of $15.2 million or 1.9 percent.

Selections from the report follow (page 92):

“With the shutdown of the Tevatron at Fermilab at the end of fiscal year 2011 and the successful operation of the most powerful energy particle collider in the world, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, U.S. dominance of the energy frontier has come to an end. However, the Committee understands that the United States has an opportunity to lead in the intensity frontier. Specifically, the United States has unique capabilities that should be exploited to develop a world-leading program of neutrino science to understand the role neutrinos play in the evolution of the universe and design new particle beams and highly sensitive detectors to advance this area of science. The Committee directs the Office of Science to submit a report not later than 180 days of enactment that lays out

-the expected benefits of intensity frontier science,

-a strategy for maintaining the U.S. lead, and

-the funding needs over the next 10 years, including construction activities, of implementing the proposed strategy.

“The Committee provides no construction funds for the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment. The Committee is concerned that this project is not mature enough for construction because a location for this experiment in an underground laboratory has not yet been selected and the decision of the National Science Foundation to discontinue construction funding for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory in South Dakota has created uncertainty about the future of the project. In addition, the Office of Science has not yet selected a technology, which affects where the experiment can be located and total cost.

“The Committee also recommends $15,000,000 as requested - $10,000,000 from the High Energy Physics program and $5,000,000 from the Nuclear Physics program - to support minimal, sustaining operations at the Homestake Mine in South Dakota. The Committee is aware of the National Science Foundation’s decision.  However, the Committee encourages the Office of Science to examine cost-effective options for using the mine to stage critical experiments related to neutrino and dark matter research.

“The Committee understands that powerful new accelerator technologies created for basic science and developed by industry will produce particle accelerators with the potential to address key economic and societal issues confronting our Nation. However, the Committee is concerned with the divide that exists in translating breakthroughs in accelerator science and technology into applications that benefit the marketplace and American competitiveness.  The Committee directs the Department to submit a 10-year strategic plan by June 1, 2012 for accelerator technology research and development to advance accelerator applications in energy and the environment, medicine, industry, national security, and discovery science. The strategic plan should be based on the results of the Department’s 2010 workshop study, Accelerators for America’s Future, that identified the opportunities and research challenges for next-generation accelerators and how to improve coordination between basic and applied accelerator research. The strategic plan should also identify the potential need for demonstration and development facilities to help bridge the gap between development and deployment.”

Nuclear Physics

The FY 2011 appropriation was $540.1 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $605.3 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $552.0 million, an increase of $11.9 million or 2.2 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $550.1 million, an increase of $10.0 million or 1.9 percent.

Selections from the report follow (page 93):

“The Committee recommends $55,000,000 in construction funds for the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, which the Nuclear Physics Advisory Committee concluded was the highest priority for the Nation’s nuclear physics program. The Committee also recommends $24,000,000 for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.”

Fusion Energy Sciences

The FY 2011 appropriation was $375.5 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $399.7 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $406.0 million, an increase of $30.5 million or 8.1 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $335.5 million, a decline of $40.0 million or 10.7 percent.

Selections from the report follow (page 94):

“The Department is directed to submit a 10-year plan, not later than 12 months after enactment of this act, on the Department’s proposed research and development activities in magnetic fusion under four realistic budget scenarios. The report shall (1) identify specific areas of fusion energy research and enabling technology development in which the United States can and should establish or solidify a lead in the global fusion energy development effort and (2) identify priorities for facility construction and facility decommissioning under each of the four budget scenarios. The Department is encouraged to use a similar approach adopted by the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel that developed a 10-year strategic plan for the Department’s high energy physics program.

“Of the $24,741,000 requested for the High Energy Density Laboratory Plasma program, $12,000,000 shall be spent on heavy-ion fusion, laser-driven fusion, and magneto-inertial fusion to be evenly distributed among these three areas of science. A recent Department of Energy report on scientific grand challenges for fusion energy sciences identified these three areas of research as critical toward advancing inertial fusion energy. In particular, the Committee does not understand why the Department would redirect funding for magnetized high-energy-density plasma research after the panel report found that this approach has the potential to significantly reduce power requirements compared to conventional inertial confinement fusion and could permit fusion development without building multi-billion dollar facilities.

“The Committee is concerned about the impact ITER will have on the domestic fusion energy budget. Based on DOE budget estimates, DOE will be requesting between $300,000,000 to $400,000,000 a year from fiscal years 2014 through 2016 to help build ITER. If current trends of declining or flat budgets continue, almost all of the fusion energy sciences budget will be consumed by ITER. The Committee encourages DOE to find a solution to this problem without compromising the scientific and technical expertise residing at U.S. universities, labs, and industrial partners.

“The Committee encourages the Office Fusion Energy Sciences Program to closely collaborate with the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, the Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, the Office of Nuclear Energy, and the National Nuclear Security Administration to address mutual needs for technology development in magnetic fusion, inertial fusion, and next-generation fission reactor concepts. One focus area of these collaborations should be on identifying, characterizing, and developing new materials that can endure the intense neutron and heat fluxes expected in these reactor environments. The Committee expects the Department to consider these nuclear technology needs as it develops its prioritization plan.

“The Committee also encourages the fusion energy program take continue taking advantage of high performance computing to address scientific and technical challenges on the path to fusion energy.  The Committee supports the Fusion Simulation Program to provide experimentally validated predictive simulation capabilities that are critical for ITER and other current and planned toroidal fusion devices. Given current and future budget constraints, the Committee views this initiative as critical to maintain U.S. world leadership in fusion energy in a cost-effective manner.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095