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The Almighty Buck Government Politics

Senate Budgetmakers Move To End US Participation In ITER 225

Posted by timothy
from the costs-and-benefits dept.
Graculus (3653645) writes Budgetmakers in the U.S. Senate have moved to halt U.S. participation in ITER, the huge international fusion experiment now under construction in Cadarache, France, that aims to demonstrate that nuclear fusion could be a viable source of energy. Although the details are not available, Senate sources confirm a report by Physics Today that the Senate's version of the budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) for fiscal year 2015, which begins 1 October, would provide just $75 million for the United States' part of the project. That would be half of what the White House had requested and just enough to wind down U.S. involvement in ITER. According to this story from April, the U.S. share of the ITER budget has jumped to "$3.9 billion — roughly four times as much as originally estimated." (That's a pretty big chunk; compare it, say, to NASA's entire annual budget.)
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Senate Budgetmakers Move To End US Participation In ITER

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @08:47AM (#47375213)
    Except everything we have now.

    Still I guess there are brown people that need killing, so something had to give.
    • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @08:53AM (#47375263)

      It's not even that. The military is getting their budget cut the same as every other government agency. A more accurate statement would be:

      "Still, I guess there are budget hawks who need to get re-elected, so something had to give."

      • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @09:04AM (#47375315)

        It's not even that. The military is getting their budget cut the same as every other government agency. A more accurate statement would be:

        "Still, I guess there are budget hawks who need to get re-elected, so something had to give."

        Well that is not fair, the military's budget is so colossal that they should be cut at a much higher rate than everything else.

        • France (and Germany) is negotiating with Moscow to broker a peace deal in Ukraine and the US does not want that: This threat is just pressure to make France reconsider. [ragingbullshit.com]. All power politics here, nothing to do with science and research or budget cuts. Expect more in the next few weeks (plus Sarkozy scandal is related but that is another story)
          • by volvox_voxel (2752469) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:33PM (#47377973)

            It's unfair to cast the US in such a light. I have family in Ukraine. Russia is making a concerted effort to take over a portion of eastern Ukraine. During the ceasefire, 40 tanks were sent over the boarder. France and Germany are reticent to impose sanctions they've been talking about for months, because they want to see business as usual with Russia. Negotiating a ceasefires is the same thing as trying to coerce Ukraine into giving up territory. France is still selling several billion dollar warships even though there is so much interference into Ukraine. I know many Georgians and Ukrainians that are pretty frightened by their new sea power.

            -- A message from a relative from a predominantly Russian speaking region of Ukraine :

            In August 2008 I didn’t pay any attention to Russia’s invasion of Georgia. I was too busy with my work and personal life. It was too hard to figure out what happened and who was right and who was wrong. I was really far away from politics. Georgia, a country of 4.5 million, fought fiercely against Russia's overwhelming military might and came out of the battle missing 20% of its territory; the price they paid for an attempt to move toward a more democratic society and to make a step closer to the European Union. Russia put military bases on the invaded territories and never faced any sanctions.

            After the conflict in Georgia, many experts and politicians said that Ukraine was going to be Russia's next victim. We, Ukrainians, laughed it off. Culturally wise, we were the closest nation to Russians. It simply could not happen! And here we go – six years after Russia's invasion of Georgia we are at the brink of a major war in our history. Russia mercilessly financed, trained and armed fighters in the East of Ukraine. It sent lots of fighters, tanks and heavy artillery across the border. Just today 30 more Russian tanks crossed the border and entered Ukraine. By estimates of our intelligence, Russia is currently training another 10,000 fighters to prepare them for the conflict in the East of Ukraine. Russia has already annexed Crimea.

            I decided to review the situation in Georgia in more detail and looked through several documentaries about that war, and talked with our Georgian friend who paid a lot of attention to that situation (please see the links below; unfortunately I couldn't find the same documentaries with English subtitles). I realized that all the nightmares that we've been living through over the last couple of months, all the things that came to us as a shocking surprise - never ending lies of the Russian media and massive hostile propaganda, constant provocations, one-sided ceasefire constantly broken by pro-Russian and Russian fighters, cynical myths about fascists in Ukraine, a large percentage of Chechen mercenaries among "peaceful protesters", refugees, tortures of prisoners of war, kidnapping people, looting, etc. - all this was so unexpected to us, so unbelievable on our peaceful land, but Georgians lived through all of this SIX YEARS AGO during Russia's occupation! We just needed to pay attention. The pattern repeats itself but on a much larger scale.

            If the world ignores this invasion and Russia doesn't face any meaningful, serious sanctions, the cycle will continue. Baltic countries will be next; or Central Asian countries; or Georgia and Moldova; or Poland; or Finland.

            Please stand together with Ukraine against Russia's invasion! Please support sanctions against Russia!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

        • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @11:05AM (#47376431)

          The problem with the military budget is it never gets cut in sensible places. The people at the sharp-end get hit first, the VA gets hit, the bazillion-dollar do-everything weapon system nobody really needs or wants? Mysteriously continues.

          You could cut the military budget by a bunch and get a better military by cutting out the inefficency and corruption.

        • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @11:17AM (#47376573) Journal
          It actually is [heritage.org]. "Defense bears 50 percent of sequestration’s reductions under the law, even though it is less than one-fifth of the budget. Entitlements, which make up nearly two-thirds of the budget, bear only 18 percent of the sequester." The budget is driven by non-defense spending - entitlements - which consume nearly every dollar in Federal Revenue that DC receives.
          • by werepants (1912634) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:45PM (#47378103)

            The budget is driven by non-defense spending - entitlements - which consume nearly every dollar in Federal Revenue that DC receives.

            When you say entitlement, it evokes a bunch of money-grubbing welfare queens who have more and more children to increase their federal benefit. The truth is that the largest portion of the budget (24%) is social security, which isn't a government handout - it is funded by working taxpayers who have paid into the system for their whole lives.

            Things that might be considered entitlements, or uncompensated financial assistance to the unemployed, disabled, etc. make up only about 12% of the budget, not the 2/3 you disingenuously claim. Source: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=vi... [cbpp.org]

            What I'm confused about is why it isn't an "entitlement" when we give massive cost-plus contracts to defense contractors with no requirement that they actually produce products that perform as promised (JSF, or any number of botched projects with no accountability). Or force our nation to give them handouts to build overpriced, technically inferior products (SLS) when free market competition offers far superior options (Commercial crew). The point isn't just that the military budget is massive (though it is), it's that much of the spending is propping up useless programs, developing technically complex boondoggles to fight enemies that don't exist. We're getting the worst of both worlds, the bureaucracy and inefficiency of government with the greed and short-sightedness of industry.

            • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @08:27PM (#47380795) Journal

              The budget is driven by non-defense spending - entitlements - which consume nearly every dollar in Federal Revenue that DC receives.

              When you say entitlement, it evokes a bunch of money-grubbing welfare queens who have more and more children to increase their federal benefit. The truth is that the largest portion of the budget (24%) is social security, which isn't a government handout - it is funded by working taxpayers who have paid into the system for their whole lives.

              Actually, social security isn't what you think it is [cato.org]. You have no right to anything in the fund, and your deposits are simply another tax to provide a wealth transfer. The funds paid in - especially today - simply do not cover outgoing expenses [factcheck.org]. What you pay in today covers about 80% of the money for other people - and it's a dropping percentage.

    • by benjfowler (239527) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @09:14AM (#47375379)

      Amusing, since if we crack economical fusion power, then we could completely avoid entanglements with said brown people in the first place. The amount of blood and treasure the West has to expend to secure secure energy supplies (and in the process, suck up to barely-literate savages who hate us), is staggering.

      You could take a quarter of what the US spends on the military in a single year, and build DEMO.

      In the greater scheme of things, ITER is a rounding error. I wouldn't be surprised if some Saudi foul play were involved.

      • by Immerman (2627577) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @09:28AM (#47375477)

        >and in the process, suck up to barely-literate savages who hate us

        I think you've got cause and effect a bit confused there - most of those people are barely literate and hate us *because* we've been mucking up their country for so long in our efforts to secure energy and access to ancient religious sites.

        • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @11:16AM (#47376551)

          To be explicit about this, the Middle East as it currently exists - its borders, the ruling parties, the dominant social groups - were basically set out by European powers after the First World War with no particular regard for the actual social and political situation on the ground. The past century of instability has pretty much revolved around those boundaries attempting to return themselves to something approaching an equilibrium, and our own dogged efforts to stop that from happening.

          It's the Berlin Wall on a truly spectacular scale.

      • by polar red (215081)

        I think the weapon industry wants to avoid that at all costs.

    • Except everything we have now.

      They're cutting funding because ITER's costs have spiraled out of control, and reviews of the project have shown that its management structure is fraught with problems. A few years ago, if you wanted to invest in fusion, ITER was the only project to invest in. Now there are dozens of other, far cheaper, better managed projects. We'll have to wait and see if they actually invest in any, but not investing in ITER isn't the downfall of fusion research by any stretch.

      • by slew (2918)

        Actually, much of the goals of ITER isn't so much to research fusion (as much of that was done in the earlier projects like the TFTR project @Princeton, similarly the like the attempts to make Thorium fission reactors like MSRE wasn't to research fission).

        ITER is basically a big material science / engineering experiment to see if it is possible to build a plasma containment vessel that withstand the neutron flux and estimate how much it will be to decommission such a beast thing later (after it becomes tota

    • by dj245 (732906)

      Except everything we have now. Still I guess there are brown people that need killing, so something had to give.

      We have very cheap energy in the US right now. Investing in even cheaper energy is not worthwhile. Why should we pay? Let those countries who have high energy bills now, pay the bill now. Otherwise the US is just subsidizing other countries.

  • Disappointing to see such an important long term research project get shelved by politicians.
    • We'll see. Rarely does DOE work completely die. That can be good or bad, depending on the specific project. One thing can be certain.... a lot of the money gets wasted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ScentCone (795499)

      get shelved by politicians

      Get shelved by Democrats, you mean. Ask Harry Reid (who sets the legislative agenda in the Senate) about his priorities, if he can articulate them in a complete, unmuddled sentence that doesn't include assertions about how his party has no rich donors, etc.

      If this were the House, the tone of the comments here would be all about specifically named anti-science conservatives, not "politicians." Why aren't we naming the anti-science liberals behind this cut?

      • The appropriations are still in committee, fucktard. This article is based on "senate sources." So hold your partisan screech for later.
      • Given the cost overruns and the fact the schedule has been already pushed out 20 years any sane person would question what is going on here.

        I'm in favor of government funded R&D but this one stinks of gross mismanagement big time.

    • Disappointing to see such an important long term research project get shelved by politicians.

      Politicians can only think short term. Most of them no further than the next sound-bite.

    • long term

      Well there's your problem. Spending on a long-term project is like throwing money into a black hole to politicians. It's bad enough if it won't pay off before the next election, but this very well might not pay off until after some of those old farts are dead! That's as worthless as a thing can possibly be to the short-sighted.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Disappointing to see such an important long term research project get shelved by politicians.

      Perhaps if they hadn't spent 40+ years promising that fusion would happen soon if we just kept throwing money at them, politicians wouldn't be so eager to stop throwing money at them.

      Fusion has been twenty years away for as long as I remember.

  • Bad Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @08:56AM (#47375275)

    3.9 Billion is the total US contribution for a project that won't be turned on until 2020 at the earliest. The correct comparison is 0.15 billion this year for ITER to 18 billion this year for NASA.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @09:06AM (#47375325) Homepage
    The numbers get rather large here, but that shouldnt matter. if NASA is our shining example of the commitment to scientific progress, then its so low on our list of priorities as to be a pointless comparison.

    the DoD has an annual budget of over 500 billion dollars.
    the USDA has a budget of 109 billion dollars.
    the department of homeland security has a 60 billion dollar budget.
    the department of justice has a 26 billion dollar budget
    NASA has a budget of 18 billion dollars

    So if one were to read these budgets as an expression of the will of a nation elected by and for its people (i know its a laughable presumption but stick with me here) then our priorities are
    shitty food thats killing us
    the neverending war against everything
    Airport anal probefest 2015
    mass incarceration
    NASA, the agency thats congressionally barred from collaborating with china or russia, and is expected by every reigning politician to turn a quarterly profit or die in a gutter.

    At this point the fact that we gifted europe 75 million dollars for a project to assess the fundamental tenability of fusion should be considered a treasonously accidental oversight. thats a whopping six whole percent of the NASA budget that we wrecklessly applied to the concept of an energy source that would user in apocalyptic levels of productivity and peace.
    • by tp1024 (2409684)

      You seem to forget that ITER is a 30 year project and you're only talking about 1-year budgets.

      • by thaylin (555395)
        AND? 4billion is a ridiculously small amount for it.
      • by Nemyst (1383049)
        Indeed, it means that the 75M/year isn't even permanent, whereas NASA will always need money (for different projects, sure, but we're comparing the two for whatever reason). Are you forgetting the sort of project ITER is? It makes the shuttle look like child's play. 75M/year for even a century would be chump change in the grand scheme of things.
        • 75 m/year buys the US intellectual property rights to any technology which comes out of ITER.

          That 75 m/year is literally the cost of the patents and technology which will be required for practical fusion power. It's the cost of getting US physicists and engineers experience and expertise with tokamak-based fusion technology.

          • Sense fusion is a constant 20 years away all patents will have run before anything works anyhow.

    • While I 100% agree that the people are getting fucked over and that our budget priorities are _completely_ out of whack (We spend more money destructively then constructively), but to call the Airport Theatre Security as an anal probefest is just a LITTLE out-of-context.

      The problem is that people are apathetic, ergo they get what they deserve, sadly. :-(

      Once people realize they are an extension of the government and demand 1. Accountability, and 2. Transparency of themselves AND the government then things

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      You mistakenly (or disingenuously) left out that you only list 'discretionary' spending.

      Mandatory spending - 2/3 of the budget - has bigger numbers:

      Social Security -- $860 billion budgeted, and $852 billion was spent.
      Medicare --$524 billion budgeted, $513 billion spent.
      Medicaid --$304 billion budgeted, $308 billion spent.
      Interest payments on national debt -- $223 billion budgeted and spent.
      All other (mostly social programs like unemployment, etc.) -- $497 billion budgeted, $560 billion spent

      Essentially, 'so

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        You strike me as the kind of guy who stops paying the water bill before he stops paying for Netflix.

        • by argStyopa (232550)

          You strike me as the kind of guy who has a 100k salary, commits to buying a house with payments of $10k a month and then tells his wife to "stop WASTING all our money buying a lottery ticket for $1" ...just because it's "mandatory" spending doesn't mean the promise was a wise one in the first place.

        • by Zeio (325157)

          The ability for the government to provide water, roads, infrastructure and schools that don't produce idiots is being utterly crippled by entitlements listed above as you can see adds up to the tune of 2 trillion.

          The discretionary budget is the actual part of the government actually trying to govern and run things, the statutory part is generally people literally doing nothing productive and receiving money.

          By the time you take out defense spending, the budget of the US government is laughably small for 300

      • Depends on what you're looking at. In the short run, the discretionary spending is what's important when comparing budget numbers. In the long run, it's total spending.

        There's also the complication that Social Security and Medicare are financed by a special tax specifically intended for them, which makes them not entirely comparable.

        • by Zeio (325157)

          "Social Security and Medicare are financed by a special tax specifically intended for them,"

          Not anymore.

          That money is treated like all other revenue. Its marked with "IOUs" , but the revenue generated is spent like its in the general fund these days.

    • by gtall (79522)

      That's nice, now how about we take a bit from the 2/3's of the budget you failed to mention. You know the 2/3, the non-discretionary.

  • by sasparillascott (1267058) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @09:12AM (#47375359)
    Seems a little odd to have gone this far and then bow out. And spread over the decade or more this project goes on, the cost is very minor considering there might be some good takebacks from the project and most importantly the good will it will generate with our European friends who's public has just learned the U.S. is unrepentantly spying on all their citizens all the time (the good will might be worth it alone).

    Little quibble: "According to this story from April, the U.S. share of the ITER budget has jumped to "$3.9 billion — roughly four times as much as originally estimated." (That's a pretty big chunk; compare it, say, to NASA's entire annual budget.) "

    $3.9 billion is alot compared to NASA's annual budget (which is ~$17 billion) - but that $3.9 billion would be payed over more than a decade right? So for an apples to apples comparison its what the Administration was going to spend on ITER for this budget ($150 million) compared to NASA's budget (~$17 billion).
    • Seems a little odd to have gone this far and then bow out.

      Depends on what you believe the prospects of the project to be. If you think that ITER may result in some worthwhile advances at some point then you are right that it would be odd to bow out now. However if you are less sure then any money spent to this point is a sunk cost [wikipedia.org] and further investment would just be throwing good money after bad. The fallacy most people tend to make is "well I've spent so much already I have to see it through" which is not rational. The money has already been spent so the onl

      • by bigpat (158134)
        With the government it is the opposite... The Senate is probably looking to kill the project because they are afraid it might actually work. Working fusion power would usher in a new age of plentiful energy and boundless economic opportunities and freedom.... politicians need a little scarcity to keep people in line and make sure they stay on top. Better to be the king of hell on earth than just another angel in heaven...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From Wikipedia:

    Funding is 45% by the hosting member, the European Union, and the rest split between the non-hosting members – China, India, Japan, South Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA.

    Okay 55/6 = 9 1/6 percent per country. So $3.9 billion is equivalent to roughly 9.17% of the project. That means that the the other five that are split are spending $3.9 billion as well? And that the EU is spending $19.1 billion? And the total cost now is $42.5 billion?

    Or is the US getting fucked again? Because that always seems to happen with international efforts.

    • by Dusty (10872)

      I couldn't comment of the budget figures. But usually with international projects the project is required to spend the budget in-line with contributions it receives from it's members. So if the USA contributes 9 1/6 % of the budget, then the project has to buy 9 1/6 % of it's stuff from the USA. This usually adds a whole load of management overhead, along with making sure different stuff from different countries all works together. This, the delays, and that it is cutting edge science usually results in sp

    • Hmm, total budget this year is ~$505 million.

      US share is $75 million.

      Which is closer to 15% of the budget than 9%.

      Total ITER budget is projected to be ~$20.4 billion.

      US share is $3.9 billion.

      19% rather than 9%. I wonder who isn't paying their share, given that our projected total share is over twice what it should be, and even the REDUCED ($75 million this year) share is 50% more than our share is supposed to be.

      As to whether the US is getting screwed as usual with international efforts, you can deci

  • by Zeio (325157) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @09:31AM (#47375517)

    As the 21st century began... human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest... the fastest reproduced in greater numbers than the rest... a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man... now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized... and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd... it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most... and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.

    Some had high hopes that genetic engineering... would correct this trend in evolution.

    But sadly, the greatest minds and resources... were focused on conquering hair loss and prolonging erections. Meanwhile, the population exploded, and intelligence continued to decline...

    Private Joe Bauers, the definition of "average American", is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, (he awakes 500 years in the future) he awakes in 2014. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he's easily the most intelligent person alive.

    • by turp182 (1020263)

      I've always considered Idiocracy a documentary. Now I just want a Kleenex style T-Shirt dispenser.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It's the resources that are the problem. The minds are all in the right places.

      • by Zeio (325157)

        Doubtful. Read about Srinivasa Ramanujan - some random guy, in random back woods India, randomly gets a boot on math by Gauss, invents / discovers and creates his own notation for himself of all the math discovered since Gauss 1820-1830 to 1900 in his own notation and sends the basis for all super fast pi series (the latest being a improvement of Ramanujan's formula by the Chudnovsky brothers or some such).

        Ramanujan dies of a cold in 1920 at the age of 32.

        You telling me all the people in a world of 7 billio

    • Meanwhile, the population exploded

      Well, except that population growth rate is declining, and has reached negative levels (excluding immigration, of course) for the USA, Europe, China, among other places.

      • by Zeio (325157)

        Not sure if you travel much. But please to pay a visit to South Africa, Pakistan or some other places like those and drive around a bit. Any place with high birth rates, and you'll see, just like in Idiocracy, smart educated caring people have less kids to do a better job raising them than the animal-humans in some of the third/fouth world places. The population growth rate has gone down, yes, but the population is still going up.

        It is well documented the growth is largely in under and undeveloped countrie

    • Except that intelligence appears to be increasing, although it may have stabilized by now. It's called the Flynn effect [wikipedia.org]. Also, the population explosion is ending, since getting people to current First World standards seems to change the fertility statistics to roughly maintain the population only.

      • by Zeio (325157)

        IQ != effective use of intelligence. Smart Germans worked for Hitler, smart people can be poor.

        Not that I consider Steven Hawking all that useful, I do like this quote:

        "I have no idea what my IQ is. People who boast about their IQ are losers."
        The Science of Second-Guessing, Stephen Hawking

        If you think there is enough to around to make a First World standard of living you are smoking the good stuff. I'm no Malthusian, but 7 billion people driving to work and taking a hot shower and eating steaks for dinner?

  • In fact, the US can likely now steal any and all data it likes and does not need to participate in any international research efforts.

  • We should be pursuing the legacy of Robert Brusard https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] like these folks http://www.talk-polywell.org/b... [talk-polywell.org]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] It works, 15 year old students have made it work in a lab http://www.popsci.com/diy/arti... [popsci.com] and $100m would build a proof of concept energy positive plant. I have no idea why we have not done this other than we may have already under the NAVY but they aren't talking. NASA should build one for interplanetary ion engines.
    • by mknewman (557587)
      Correction, his name is spelled Bussard, as in the Bussard Ramjet of Sci-Fi fame that he invented. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]
    • We should be pursuing the legacy of Robert Brusard

      If you can't even be bothered to spell his name right...

    • by bigpat (158134)

      Yes, but it is not either or, we should be pursuing all types of potentially promising research and development towards nuclear fusion or even safer and more sustainable nuclear fusion. We should be spending ten or twenty Billion dollars per year and not just $150 million.

      And we should actually be building up to industrial scale some of the more promising nuclear fission designs that we have now. Solar and Wind are not likely going to be able to account for even the majority of our energy needs so we ne

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      The Navy-funded research is all out there in the journals. It's an active area, it's just not a very expensive one (which is one of its benefits) so it's not a political hot potato.

  • would succeed in anything less then 40 years?

    That after their "success" nuclear fusion would be cheap, clean and easily reproducible?

    This is the easy brute force approach to fusion. Cut funding and scientists will be forced to use other less brute force ways which could result in cleaner ways of fusion.

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.

Working...