Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government The Almighty Buck United States Science

Computing a Winner, Fusion a Loser In US Science Budget 196

Posted by Soulskill
from the gotta-pay-for-those-fighter-jets-somehow dept.
sciencehabit writes "President Barack Obama has released a $3.901 trillion budget request to Congress, including proposals for a host of federal research agencies. Science Magazine has the breakdown, including a big win for advanced computing, a big cut for fusion, and status quo for astronomy. 'In the proposed budget, advanced computing would see its funding soar 13.2% to $541 million. BES, the biggest DOE program, would get a boost of 5.5% to $1.807 billion. BER would get a 3% bump to $628 million, and nuclear physics would enjoy a 4.3% increase to $594 million. In contrast, the fusion program would take a 17.6% cut to $416 million—$88 million less than it's getting this year. Although far from final, the numbers suggest another big dip for a program that has enjoyed a roller coaster ride in recent years. In its proposed 2013 budget, DOE called for slashing spending on domestic fusion research to help pay for the increasing U.S. contribution to the international fusion experiment, ITER, in Cadarache, France.'" The Association of American Universities has issued a letter disapproving of the amount of research funding. The Planetary Society has broken down the proposed NASA budget.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Computing a Winner, Fusion a Loser In US Science Budget

Comments Filter:
  • Politics ahead. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:09AM (#46407085)

    Lets see how this comes out of the congressional sausage factory before we get too excited. Much of the spending is going to be contested. Budgets are also common places to stick unpopular riders, so there will probably be a few nasty surprises snuck in.

    • There will be some pet projects tucked into every appropriations bill.

      That's collectively exhaustive of the options for getting the votes necessary to pass a budget.

      It's not the worst system in the World, but never fear, they're not finished yet, either.

      • Pet projects, and occasionally restrictions on funding. I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone tries to sneak in a clause saying none of the money may be spent on climate change research or something of that nature.

    • Lets see how this comes out of the congressional sausage factory before we get too excited.

      Indeed. Normally, when congress creates a budget, they completely ignore the president's proposal. These suggested spending levels are more or less meaningless at this point. In the final budget, the value of the science to our society will be given far less consideration than the need to steer spending to particular congressional districts. Livermore, CA, where most fusion spending takes place, has a Republican representative with no seniority. Being Republican helps, since they control the House. Ca

      • Livermore, CA, where most fusion spending takes place, has a Republican representative with no seniority.

        Gak! Sorry, I was looking at an old map before redistricting. Livermore is now in a different district, with a Democratic representative with no seniority. Not good for fusion funding.

        • "Democratic representative with no seniority. Not good for fusion funding."

          Soooo you're freely admitting it's nothing more than pork? Because it is, at least in the case of NIF.

          • Eh, more like pork can benefit the country, in addition to the representative's district, or it can hurt the country and benefit the rep. And our country will get outraged about both, use that to slash the former, and continue the latter unabated.

            One of the problems the US constitution failed to address structurally was a process for creating a budget that limits corruption through checks and balances. Other modern liberal democracies with more recent constitutions don't have this problem to the same exte

          • When congress routinely demonstrates the forethought of a mayfly, we can consider any project that doesn't produce immediate results to be "pork" in their compound eyes

  • and give the money to our own domestic fusion researchers. If ITER ultimately leads the way to a marketable fusion reactor I am sure we can either licenses the tech or let foreigners build the plants - far cheaper for the tax payer while supporting our own alternative research.

    • by Valdrax (32670)

      If ITER ultimately leads the way to a marketable fusion reactor I am sure we can either licenses the tech or let foreigners build the plants - far cheaper for the tax payer while supporting our own alternative research.

      Two problems with that:

      1) How is ITER going to succeed if one of its major contributors pulls out?
      2) Are there any domestic programs with a better chance of success and a more concrete plan? (I'm not aware of any.)

      • "1) How is ITER going to succeed if one of its major contributors pulls out?"

        The US pays about 10%. Guess they'll have to find a way to make it less of a boondoggle?

        "2) Are there any domestic programs with a better chance of success and a more concrete plan? (I'm not aware of any.)"

        Given that ITER uses the same tired methods that have been worked on a very long time, I'd say yes all the alternatives have just as good a chance and for far less money.

  • It makes sense to cut in traditional fusion research. Indeed, by now it is clear that the best and cheapest practical fusion energy reactor for the foreseeable future has been found in the form the gravity stabilized fusion reactor called Sun. With declining costs solar panels already compete with conventional nuclear reactors. If the trend continue to ~2020 even coal and oil might be seen then as too expensive in regards of solar energy.

       

    • > even coal and oil might be seen then as too expensive in regards of solar energy

      They already have too much to worry about *right now* from natural gas and wind to start worrying about PV in 2020.

      You know wind in the US hit just over 5 c/kWh for a while there, right? Nuclear is 6 to 8 (the plant down the road from my house is 8.5 c/kWh).

      • Since you brought up the actual numbers, I figured I'd add those in. So we have:

        Nuclear 7 cents
        Natural Gas 3.5 cents
        --------
        Solar 35 cents (10AM - 4 PM only)
        Wind 5 cents (when wind is between 30-40 MPH)

        The two groups are separate because the top two are base power - reliable sources available all the time.
        The bottom two are supplementary power - they are available SOMETIMES, and when they are available you can reduce the generation from

        • by Framboise (521772)

          Research funding must consider mid to long term planning, so one has to project somewhat in the future, say 2020. There are many such forecasts, but perhaps this one is interesting to quote in view of the origin (US DOE) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10242882/Solar-power-to-trump-shale-helped-by-US-military.html/ [telegraph.co.uk]

          "The US Energy Department expects the cost of solar power to fall by 75pc between 2010 and 2020. By then average costs will have dropped to the $1 per watt for b

          • The only two citations I see in that article are a) the solar energy association and b) the head of a solar company. If their claim is in any way hinted at by any DOE report , it's too bad they didn't cite that report. I have a guess as to why they didn't cite anything. I wouldn't be surprised if DOE had run a projection on the scenario that taxpayers might subsidize solar more, so one person using solar would pay less because his neighbors are effectively paying the outrageous cost. They could have als

        • > Solar 35 cents (10AM - 4 PM only)

          More like 8 to 15, depending on where you live. You can do the calculation yourself, I'd be interested to see if you come to any other sore of conclusion:

          http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/green-apples/

          > Wind 5 cents (when wind is between 30-40 MPH)

          Nope, all in.

          > The bottom two are supplementary power

          And as another report released this very day noted (available on Ars), you can have 40% intermittent power like PV and wind before you have to do *anything

          • You don't need any energy storage as long as your base power can supply all your needs. Period. If nuclear, hydro, natural gas, and coal can provide all of power, you don't need to store ie solar. Which is good, becuase there is no feasible means of storage. How much wind or solar you have has ZERO effect on that. Sometimes wind will make no power, either because it's not windy enough, or it's too windy. So you need the reliable sources to provide 100% during those times.

            I see you've "rebutted" the DOE pr

            • > I see you've "rebutted" the DOE price survey by pointing to a blogger as your source.

              Yes, I quoted me. A professional in the PV field.

              The DOE report in question is based on numbers that are approximately five years old. That's how long it takes them to put reports together. In the last five years, the price of PV has fallen seven times. When you divide by seven, you get my number.

              But what's really telling is that the post in question shows you how to do this calculation yourself using up-to-date number

            • An addendum, proving the point:

              The DOE is currently estimating installation prices in 2018, you can see their numbers here:

              http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

              If you look at the number for PV, you'll see they predict $130.4/MWh at 25% CF. So that's $32.6/Mw, essentially. From that they estimate a total all-in cost of 144.3. Systems are going in at half that all over the place. First Solar just signed a PPA at 5.6 cents/kWh for 20 years in Nevada, which implies an installed cost of 85

    • You see, with fusion more applications can exist that require high energy consumption.
      You can't power rockets with solar energy.
      You can't even power cars with only solar. You need an energy storage device. You won't with fusion.
      Solar power basically requires batteries. Fusion does not. You realize that panel production and battery production requires a ton of oil to produce and is not clean by any means.
      Fusion would drive energy prices less than nuclear ever could.
      You would also find a reason with fusio

  • Seriously? Computing can handle itself. Just don't piss off the community which is willing to output most research for free. The US government should be looking at curtailing copyright laws so that people can study and learn from older technologies, in order to produce better, more stable technology for the future. These increases in budget are modest at best anyway. If the USA were serious, they'd cut the defense budget, quit threatening countries they don't belong in and start contributing to the i
  • by srussia (884021) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:34AM (#46407707)
    The DOE (yes, not the DOD) is currently refurbishing as many as 2,000 submarine-based W76 warheads at a cost of roughly $2 million each.

    Make of that what you will.
  • Maybe they should get their shit together, build something realistic for the long term, and start selling the electricity then. If I invented a magic device that created gold, I'd probably be selling the gold. Just saying.
  • Computing research can help advance and perfect the Panopticon; Fusion would only damage Big Oil's profits and power.

    Pretty clear choice for 99% of politicians.

FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies.

Working...