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GAO completes us ITER review.

At the request of the US Congress on May 3, 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) began a review of the cost and schedule estimates of the US Department of Energy's ITER project. A report (GA0-14-499) issued June 5, 2014, provided the following summary of the effort:

"Since the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Agreement was signed in 2006, the Department of Energy's (DOE) estimated cost for the U.S. portion of ITER has grown by almost $3 billion, and its estimated completion date has slipped by 20 years (see fig.). DOE has identified several reasons for the changes, such as increases in hardware cost estimates as designs and requirements have been more fully developed over time. DOE's current cost and schedule estimates for the U.S. ITER Project reflect most characteristics of reliable estimates, but the estimates cannot be used to set a performance baseline because they are linked to factors that DOE can only partially influence. A performance baseline would commit DOE to delivering the U.S. ITER Project at a specific cost and date and provide a way to measure the project's progress. According to DOE documents and officials, the agency has been unable to finalize its cost and schedule estimates in part because the international project schedule the estimates are linked to is not reliable. DOE has taken some steps to help push for a more reliable international project schedule, such as providing position papers and suggested actions to the ITER Organization. However, DOE has not taken additional actions such as preparing formal proposals that could help resolve these issues. Unless such formal actions are taken to resolve the reliability concerns of the international project schedule, DOE will remain hampered in its efforts to create and set a performance baseline for the U.S. ITER Project.

The report summary states, "DOE has taken several actions that have reduced U.S. ITER Project costs by about $388 million as of February 2014, but DOE has not adequately planned for the potential impact of those costs on the overall U.S. fusion program. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have directed DOE to complete a strategic plan for the U.S. fusion program. GAO has previously reported that strategic planning is a leading practice that can help clarify priorities, and DOE has begun work on such a plan but has not committed to a specific completion date. Without a strategic plan for the U.S. fusion program, DOE does not have information to create an understanding among stakeholders about its plans for balancing the competing demands the program faces with the limited available resources or to help improve Congress' ability to weigh the trade-offs of different funding decisions for the U.S. ITER Project and overall U.S. fusion program."

The GAO report does not comment on the fact that DOE has consistently refused to share with the US fusion community the results of its periodic reviews (so-called Lehman Reviews) of the growing cost of the US contributions to ITER or that they have explicitly excluded consideration of ITER costs from the Strategic Plan currently being prepared by its Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee.

The GAO summary and full report are posted at or can be requested from Fusion Power Associates at

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Title Annotation:Government Accountability Office; International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
Publication:Fusion Power Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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