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Some labs, projects win big as Department of Energy disburses extra funds | Science

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Funding just became a little flusher for thousands of researchers supported by the Department of Energy (DOE). The department’s Office of Science last week announced how it will distribute a one-time infusion of $1.55 billion provided by Congress under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which President Joe Biden signed into law in August. The office will spread the money over 52 projects already in the works, in amounts ranging from $650,000 to $256 million.

“The investment is going to upgrade scientific facilities that tens of thousands of researchers come to [DOE’s national] labs to use every single year,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in an online press conference. “The fundamental science and technology development that’s occurring at the national labs can unlock the clean-energy technologies that we need to tackle climate change.”

The legislation that became the IRA began as a push by Congress and the Biden administration to help revive the economy after the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early versions of the bill contained $13 billion for DOE science projects, and tens of billions of dollars more for other federal research agencies. Most of that funding was stripped from the final bill, but, to the surprise of many observers, DOE’s Office of Science kept part of its windfall.

DOE officials allocated the funds by considering “where would we get the most bang for our buck,” Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, director of the Office of Science, explained in a 25 October online press conference. “Where would we be able to advance critical projects that were either delayed or perhaps could benefit from their schedules moving forward?”

Among the individual projects, by far the biggest winner was the United States’s effort to build parts for ITER, the gargantuan international fusion experiment under construction in southern France. DOE gave the project an additional $256 million—roughly one-sixth of the entire windfall. That’s on top of the $242 million DOE spent on U.S. ITER in fiscal 2022, which ended on 30 September, and the $240 million the agency has requested for U.S. ITER for fiscal 2023. (Congress has yet to pass the budget for 2023.) All told, the United States is expected to contribute at least $4.7 billion to ITER, which has no official total cost. Researchers aim to have the machine running in late 2025.

Slicing the pie—albeit unevenly

In the distribution of an additional $1.55 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act, some of the research programs in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and some of the department’s national laboratories benefit much more than others.

(Graphic) K. Franklin/Science; (Data) DOE Office of Science

Other projects winning big are: the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, a $3.1 billon particle physics experiment headquartered at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which receives $125 million; the proposed $2.2 billion Electron-Ion Collider, a new atom smasher for nuclear physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which receives a total of $138 million; and the $590 million Advanced Light Source Upgrade, a rebuild of the x-ray synchrotron at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which receives $97 million. The Office of Science’s supercomputing centers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Berkeley each receive more than $50 million.

Some of DOE’s 17 national laboratories benefit far more than others (see chart, above). In fact, five of the 10 national labs owned by the Office of Science receive more than 75% of all the additional funding, with Oak Ridge alone receiving $496 million, or 32% of the total, for projects including U.S. ITER. In contrast, the Office of Science’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory receives just $8.2 million, to replace the heating system in one of its buildings.

The Office of Science manages its various efforts through six large research programs and two much smaller ones, and some receive more funds than others. High energy physics, which has an annual budget of $1.08 billion, receives the biggest boost, taking $304 million. But proportionally the biggest winner is the tiny isotope R&D and production program, which aims to revitalize the United States’s ability to generate rare isotopes for myriad research uses. It receives $157 million, nearly twice its $82 million budget for this year, the first year it wasn’t part of the bigger nuclear physics program.

One research program is conspicuously absent from the list. The biological and environmental research (BER) program, which this year had a budget of $815 million and funds much of DOE’s work on climate research, receives none of the IRA money. But large projects are a major focus of the legislation, and BER currently has none in the pipeline.


Funding just became a little flusher for thousands of researchers supported by the Department of Energy (DOE). The department’s Office of Science last week announced how it will distribute a one-time infusion of $1.55 billion provided by Congress under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which President Joe Biden signed into law in August. The office will spread the money over 52 projects already in the works, in amounts ranging from $650,000 to $256 million.

“The investment is going to upgrade scientific facilities that tens of thousands of researchers come to [DOE’s national] labs to use every single year,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in an online press conference. “The fundamental science and technology development that’s occurring at the national labs can unlock the clean-energy technologies that we need to tackle climate change.”

The legislation that became the IRA began as a push by Congress and the Biden administration to help revive the economy after the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early versions of the bill contained $13 billion for DOE science projects, and tens of billions of dollars more for other federal research agencies. Most of that funding was stripped from the final bill, but, to the surprise of many observers, DOE’s Office of Science kept part of its windfall.

DOE officials allocated the funds by considering “where would we get the most bang for our buck,” Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, director of the Office of Science, explained in a 25 October online press conference. “Where would we be able to advance critical projects that were either delayed or perhaps could benefit from their schedules moving forward?”

Among the individual projects, by far the biggest winner was the United States’s effort to build parts for ITER, the gargantuan international fusion experiment under construction in southern France. DOE gave the project an additional $256 million—roughly one-sixth of the entire windfall. That’s on top of the $242 million DOE spent on U.S. ITER in fiscal 2022, which ended on 30 September, and the $240 million the agency has requested for U.S. ITER for fiscal 2023. (Congress has yet to pass the budget for 2023.) All told, the United States is expected to contribute at least $4.7 billion to ITER, which has no official total cost. Researchers aim to have the machine running in late 2025.

Slicing the pie—albeit unevenly

In the distribution of an additional $1.55 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act, some of the research programs in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and some of the department’s national laboratories benefit much more than others.

Distribution of IRA funds to different national labs
(Graphic) K. Franklin/Science; (Data) DOE Office of Science

Other projects winning big are: the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, a $3.1 billon particle physics experiment headquartered at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which receives $125 million; the proposed $2.2 billion Electron-Ion Collider, a new atom smasher for nuclear physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which receives a total of $138 million; and the $590 million Advanced Light Source Upgrade, a rebuild of the x-ray synchrotron at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which receives $97 million. The Office of Science’s supercomputing centers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Berkeley each receive more than $50 million.

Some of DOE’s 17 national laboratories benefit far more than others (see chart, above). In fact, five of the 10 national labs owned by the Office of Science receive more than 75% of all the additional funding, with Oak Ridge alone receiving $496 million, or 32% of the total, for projects including U.S. ITER. In contrast, the Office of Science’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory receives just $8.2 million, to replace the heating system in one of its buildings.

The Office of Science manages its various efforts through six large research programs and two much smaller ones, and some receive more funds than others. High energy physics, which has an annual budget of $1.08 billion, receives the biggest boost, taking $304 million. But proportionally the biggest winner is the tiny isotope R&D and production program, which aims to revitalize the United States’s ability to generate rare isotopes for myriad research uses. It receives $157 million, nearly twice its $82 million budget for this year, the first year it wasn’t part of the bigger nuclear physics program.

One research program is conspicuously absent from the list. The biological and environmental research (BER) program, which this year had a budget of $815 million and funds much of DOE’s work on climate research, receives none of the IRA money. But large projects are a major focus of the legislation, and BER currently has none in the pipeline.

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