The international fusion experimental reactor project received a stay of execution when the US Congress postponed a legislative conference on the Energy Department’s 1999 funding bill. ITER’s future has been thrown into doubt following the refusal of the US to sign a three year extension agreement with the EU, Russia and Japan (See NEI, July 1998, p8).
Lobbyist backing ITER hope to use the time to convince Republican James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Science Committee, that he must convince his colleagues to keep the project alive. However, there is no evidence that members of the committee are likely to change their minds when they meet again in September.
The Office of Management and Budget has reportedly advised the DOE’s fusion programme managers to keep research programmes focused on scientific as opposed to engineering issues.