U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Rodney Frelinghuysen visited the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory this morning to announce that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to restore $76 million in funding for fusion energy research.
The funding, which supports the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and other energy research laboratories, was not included in the President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request. Without the funding, the lab would face major cutbacks on research projects and staff reductions of up to 100 people, including scientists, engineers, and lab technicians.
“Fusion research is key to America’s energy future, and we are proud to have this important work in New Jersey,” said Holt, who was the assistant director of the lab before his election to Congress. “If you look around us today, you’ll see workers in lab coats, workers in suits, and workers in jeans and hardhats — in other words, a broad cross-section of the New Jersey workforce. All of these jobs, and all of their crucial research, are placed at risk by efforts to cut basic research.”
After the President announced his plans earlier this year to cut funding for fusion energy research, Holt gathered a coalition of 48 bipartisan members of Congress to oppose the cuts. The group wrote a letter to Frelinghuysen in his role as chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, asking that the funding be restored. Frelinghuysen is a Republican representing New Jersey’s 11th District.
“Clean energy is an area in which our government can ill-afford to fall behind,” the bipartisan coalition wrote. “We will cede further advantage to countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union, all of which are pursuing substantially more aggressive fusion programs than our own.”
In response, Frelinghuysen authored legislative language restoring full funding for fusion energy research in the fiscal year 2013 energy and water appropriations bill. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on June 6.
“I asked Representative Frelinghuysen to join us at PPPL today mostly so that we could say,`Thank you’,” Holt said. “His leadership is admirable and deeply appreciated. The Senate still must pass an energy bill that retains this new funding, but thanks to his efforts, the momentum is moving in the right direction.”
Holt and Frelinghuysen were hosted by Stewart Prager, the director of the lab, and Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman.
“The funding bill they both fought for is exceedingly important for the advancement of fusion energy, paving the way for new pathways for the U.S.,” Prager said.