Subcommittee Discusses International Fusion Energy Project

Jul 11, 2014
Subcommittee Discusses International Fusion Energy Project

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing to discuss the progress and future of the ITER international fusion project. The U.S. joined the European Union (EU), India, Japan, China, Korea, and Russia to form the ITER Organization (IO), with each country providing resources, personnel, and expertise to move the project forward.

Ranking Member Eric Swalwell (D-CA) of the Energy Subcommittee said in his opening statement, “Given the critical importance of ITER to determining the viability of fusion as a clean energy source, and the major contributions of U.S. researchers to advancing the science and engineering of the field to this point, I maintain strong support for this project along with the other key components of the broader U.S.-based fusion research program. However, this does not mean we can support an unconditional blank check. The U.S. must maintain vigorous oversight and use every means available with our international partners to contain cost and schedule, all while keeping an unwavering focus on achieving the project’s incredibly important goals for our and the world’s energy future.”

The subcommittee heard from a panel of expert witnesses, which included Dr. Frank Rusco, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO; Dr. Pat Dehmer, Deputy Director for Science Programs at DOE; Dr. Robert Iotti, ITER Council Chair; Dr. Ned Sauthoff, Director of U.S. ITER Project, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Members from both sides of the aisle expressed strong support for ITER and for fusion energy research more broadly. Members discussed with the witnesses the timeline of the project and the support of and strategic planning process for U.S. fusion research and facilities. Witnesses provided to the subcommittee members suggestions for improvements that could be made to the organization’s current structure and options to optimize the cost and schedule profile for the U.S. contribution to ITER.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her opening statement, “Nuclear fusion has the potential to provide the world with a clean, safe, and practically inexhaustible source of energy. Producing reliable electric power from fusion would undoubtedly serve as one of the biggest and most important scientific achievements in the history of humankind. This is why I am so supportive of a strong research program that can help us overcome the remaining scientific and engineering challenges for this potential to become a reality.”