Lofgren and Hall Endorse DOE's International Fusion Program
Yesterday, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced that the U.S. government would join negotiations for the construction and operation of a major international magnetic fusion research project, known as the International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor (ITER). Science Committee Member Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ranking Minority Member Ralph Hall (D-TX) commended the Administration’s decision yesterday to rejoin participation in the development of the ITER project.
Ms. Lofgren commented: "Today’s announcement is an important first step in moving the topic of fusion energy from concept to reality. The development of alternative energy sources, such as fusion, is vital to help meet our future energy needs. As we begin consideration on the federal budget, I look forward to working with the administration to make sure that this project has the needed funding."
"I am delighted that the President and the Secretary have taken this action at this time," said Ranking Member Hall. "ITER has the potential to lead us in the direction of finding a truly limitless and non-polluting source of energy. While I was disappointed that we withdrew from ITER several years ago, the lessons learned about fusion science since then may make it possible for us to achieve significant breakthroughs in achieving the generation of electric power from this safe, clean source."
The administration’s decision follows legislative action and two letters from Science Committee Members on ITER. In July 2001, the Committee included the text of Ms. Lofgren’s Fusion Bill, the Fusion Energy Sciences Research Act of 2001 (H.R. 1781), in H.R. 4, the Energy Policy Act. Ms. Lofgren’s bill, introduced with bipartisan support in May, 2001, required the Secretary of Energy to develop a plan for a magnetic fusion burning plasma experiment for the purpose of accelerating the scientific understanding and development of fusion as a long-term energy source. The Secretary was specifically directed to consider international cooperative efforts to carry out this plan.
On November 1, 2001, Mr. Hall and Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) sent a letter to Secretary Abraham encouraging the administration to begin sending a representative to discussions on ITER. They also asked the Secretary to study entry into the project as a full partner. Then on Tuesday, January 28, Lofgren, Hall, and Boehlert, along with Representatives Nethercutt (R-WA) and Ehlers (R-MI), sent a letter to Secretary Abraham endorsing participation in the project. That recent letter noted that, "with our increasing reliance on imported fuels, and growing concern about greenhouse gas emissions, other potential sources of power must be aggressively pursued. In the case of fusion, it seems clear that international collaboration is the most efficient and affordable path to a commercial energy source."