FYI: Science Policy News

Final FY20 Appropriations: DOE Office of Science

JAN 09, 2020
The budget for the Department of Energy Office of Science is increasing 6% this year to an even $7 billion. The increase is spread across the office’s six programs, with Fusion Energy Sciences receiving a particularly large boost.
Will Thomas
Spencer R. Weart Director of Research in History, Policy, and Culture

With the enactment of fiscal year 2020 appropriations on Dec. 20, the budget for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science is rising $415 million, or 6%, to an even $7 billion. Although the boost is not so large as the 10% proposed by the Senate, it continues a trend that has added nearly $2 billion to the office’s topline since fiscal year 2015.

To date, much of the additional budget has gone toward a variety of facility and equipment projects. Particularly notable this year is a near doubling in construction funding for the France-based ITER nuclear fusion research facility, reflecting renewed congressional confidence in its management. Funding for priority areas such as quantum information science and artificial intelligence will also significantly increase.

FY20 Appropriations: DOE Office of Science

This year’s DOE appropriation was included in a package bill focused on domestic spending. An explanatory statement accompanying the bill provides detailed funding direction and policy guidance. The House and Senate appropriations committee reports on their respective DOE spending bills convey additional direction unless it is negated by language in the statement. For summary tables, see the FYI Federal Science Budget Tracker .

Crosscutting initiatives

Quantum information science. Drawing from the budgets of all six Office of Science programs, DOE is directed to spend $195 million on QIS, almost 60% more than in fiscal year 2019. Within that amount, $75 million is included to establish up to five QIS research centers. A DOE official said in September that the department expected to solicit center proposals shortly following the finalization of fiscal year 2020 appropriations and to select awardees in early summer. The National Quantum Initiative Act directs DOE to establish between two and five such centers, each funded at up to $25 million per year.

Artificial intelligence. Across Office of Science programs, DOE is instructed to spend $71 million on applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning to the department’s mission. In addition, DOE is to spend between $10 million and $15 million on “research in memory advancements for accelerated architectures used to enhance artificial intelligence and machine learning.” The department is also instructed to establish a collaborative research program to “produce breakthroughs for intelligent memory systems that will enhance the ability of the department to cost effectively address the largest problems in science.”

Negative emissions technologies. Within the Office of Science, the Basic Energy Sciences and Biological and Environmental Research programs are together directed to spend at least $20 million on R&D related to technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including at least $5 million for R&D on direct air capture. Separately, the DOE Office of Fossil Energy is directed to spend at least $20 million from its budget on negative emissions technologies, of which at least $10 million is for direct air capture.

Collaboration with NIH. The Office of Science is directed to develop a plan that “responds” to the recommendations of a 2016 report on ways DOE could further contribute to the biomedical sciences. The plan is required to include a “reporting of successful collaborations between the department and the National Institutes of Health to date and plans to expand on those efforts.”

Basic Energy Sciences

The Basic Energy Sciences program funds materials and chemical research and supports a large portfolio of user facilities and research centers. Its budget is increasing 2% to $2.21 billion and has now increased 28% since fiscal year 2015.

Light and neutron sources. Funding for light source and neutron source user facility operations is rising 4% to $817 million. BES’ major light source construction and upgrade projects will all continue apace, and a further $5.5 million will fund new beamlines at the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Lab. Oak Ridge National Lab’s Spallation Neutron Source will receive steady support for its Proton Power Upgrade, and there will be a significant boost for early work on its Second Target Station, a major expansion project. A proposal to allocate $18.5 million for work on the facility’s proposed DISCOVER beamline was not adopted.

Funding for BES facility projects

Other facilities and centers. Funding for the five Nanoscale Science Research Centers is rising 3% to $139 million, with a further $5 million provided for updating their instrumentation. Funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers is increasing 5% to $115 million. The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Lab will receive steady funding of $24 million. The Caltech-based Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis is completing its allotted 10 years as DOE’s Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub and the department is directed to spend between $15 million and $20 million as it awards the hub’s next instantiation.

Fusion Energy Sciences

The Fusion Energy Sciences program funds plasma science research and R&D related to energy generation from nuclear fusion. Its budget is rising 19% to $671 million and has now increased by 44% since fiscal year 2015.

ITER. Funding for construction of the France-based ITER fusion energy project is increasing 83% to $242 million, of which no less than $85 million is for DOE’s cash obligations to the project. The remainder will fund “in-kind” contributions of equipment developed domestically. The funding surge reflects the waning of congressional concerns over ITER’s management, which had led the U.S. to withhold funding and its cash contributions in particular.

Construction on the ITER fusion facility in France is set to pass an important milestone in 2020 as work on the reactor begins.

Construction of the ITER fusion facility in France is set to pass an important milestone in 2020 as assembly of the reactor begins.

(Image credit – ITER Organization)

NSTX-U. Operations funding for the National Spherical Torus Experiment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab is remaining level at $68 million.* Repairs are ongoing to the tokamak research facility, which broke down in 2016 shortly after the lab completed an upgrade to it.

Materials Plasma Exposure eXperiment. Funding for the MPEX project at Oak Ridge is ramping up from $15 million to $21 million. The experiment will test materials in conditions similar to those that would exist in a nuclear fusion reactor.

Private fusion ventures. DOE’s new Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) program is receiving an initial appropriation of $4 million. The program, which supports collaborations between DOE labs and private fusion energy ventures, awarded its first grants in October using general fusion program funds. Although the House and Senate also both proposed funding a separate class of public-private cost-share grants for fusion reactor technology development, appropriators ultimately backed off the idea. Congress instead directs the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee to weigh in through the strategic planning exercise it is currently undertaking.

High-intensity lasers. In 2017, a National Academies report recommended DOE construct at least one ultrafast, high-intensity laser facility co-located with other departmental scientific facilities, and that it take steps to reduce fragmentation among researchers in the field. Accordingly, Congress is providing $16 million to begin an upgrade to the Matter in Extreme Conditions end station at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source facility to achieve petawatt power levels. Congress is also increasing funding for research in high energy density laboratory plasmas from $18 million to $20 million, which includes support for LaserNetUS, a consortium of ten U.S.-based laser facilities.

High Energy Physics

The High Energy Physics program funds research in particle physics, cosmology, and particle accelerator R&D. This year, its budget is increasing 7% to $1.05 billion, marking the first time it has passed the billion-dollar mark since the cancellation of the Superconducting Super Collider in 1993. The HEP budget has now risen 36% since fiscal year 2015.

LBNF/DUNE and PIP-II. Funding for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment is ramping up from $131 million to $175 million. The estimated total cost of the project is $1.85 billion. An additional $30 million is provided to upgrade infrastructure at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota to accommodate the eventual installation of the DUNE detector there. Funding for the Proton Improvement Plan II accelerator upgrade at Fermilab, needed to generate LBNF/DUNE’s neutrino beam, is ramping up from $35 million to $60 million. That project is expected to cost about $720 million in total.

LHC upgrades. DOE’s contribution to the high-luminosity upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, along with associated upgrades to the ATLAS and CMS detectors, is ramping up from $91 million to $100 million. The National Science Foundation is providing an additional $33 million for the detector upgrades.

Nuclear Physics

The Nuclear Physics program supports research on the strong and weak forces that govern the behavior of atomic nuclei. It also manages the DOE Isotope Program, which produces and distributes isotopes for a variety of critical applications. The program’s budget is increasing 3% to $713 million and has now increased 20% since fiscal year 2015.

Electron-Ion Collider. Congress is providing $11 million for preparatory work on the Electron-Ion Collider, a proposed nuclear science facility . DOE announced today that it has selected Brookhaven National Laboratory as the site for the collider, which will be built as a modification to the existing Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. The department states it expects the project to take about 10 years to design and build and to cost between $1.6 billion and $2.6 billion.

Brookhaven National Laboratory’s EIC proposal calls for building a third accelerator in the tunnel of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider

Brookhaven National Laboratory’s EIC proposal calls for building a third accelerator in the tunnel of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider to introduce the capability of colliding electrons with ions from the existing facility.

(Image credit – BNL)

Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. As the project nears completion, funding for construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University is ramping down from $75 million to $40 million. Congress is also providing $29 million for the start of facility operations, which is expected to occur in 2021.

U.S. Stable Isotope Production and Research Center. The construction of a major new facility for producing non-radioactive isotopes at Oak Ridge National Lab is receiving an initial appropriation of $12 million. The project is currently expected to be completed in 2027 and to cost between $150 million and $200 million.

Other projects. The explanatory statement provides no further direction relating to a variety of other projects — including the GRETA and sPHENIX detectors, the MOLLER experiment, and a major neutrinoless double beta decay experiment — leaving amounts specified in the House and Senate proposals as Congress’ final direction.

Advanced Scientific Computing Research

The Advanced Scientific Computing Research program supports high-performance computing facilities and associated R&D. A priority for DOE and Congress, the program’s budget increase of 5% to $980 million this year caps a surge of 81% since fiscal year 2015.

Exascale Computing Project. As work continues toward commissioning the world’s first exascale computer at Argonne National Lab in 2021, the program-wide account for exascale computing is ramping down from $233 million to $189 million

Computing facilities. The operating budgets for the program’s computing facilities are receiving the following increases:

  • Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility: 13% to $225 million
  • Argonne Leadership Computing Facility: 7% to $150 million
  • National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Berkeley Lab: 5% to $110 million
  • Energy Sciences Network: 6% to $90 million

Biological and Environmental Research

The Biological and Environmental Research program funds a broad portfolio of research ranging from molecular biology to Earth systems modeling. Its budget is increasing 6% to $750 million this year and has now increased 27% since fiscal year 2015.

Research and facilities. The Senate’s proposed 58% increase for the Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging Research program has been scaled back to a 15% increase to $40 million, with at least $5 million directed to “advance the study of complex biological systems and synthetic biology using neutrons.” Funding for Subsurface Biogeochemical Research will increase by no less than 44% to $32 million and funding for the Joint Genome Institute is increasing 10% to $77 million. Congress also specifies funding amounts for a number of research topics, including $15 million for cloud-aerosol research and computing.

Low dose radiation research. Congress is providing $5 million to restart DOE’s research program on the biological effects of low doses of ionizing radiation. DOE discontinued the program in 2016 but was instructed to continue the work through the DOE Research and Innovation Act signed into law in 2018.

*Correction: This item originally incorrectly indicated the allocation of $68 million represents a 27% decrease. That change was calculated using an FY19 level encompassing both the “operations” and “research” portions of NSTX-U’s budget, but the specified FY20 figure is for “operations” only; Congress has not specified an FY20 funding level for the “research” portion.

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