First-Ever Comprehensive Statutory Guidance for DOE’s Office of Science Passes House

On Jan. 23, the House unanimously passed  H.R.589 – Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act which would provide the first-ever comprehensive statutory guidance for DOE’s Office of Science and its network of national laboratories. The bill also includes provisions to enhance technology transfer from DOE’s 17 national laboratories, improve research coordination across the department, and boost advanced nuclear R&D.

The legislation will advance basic research and set clear science priorities for the Department of Energy. The Office of Science’s six basic research programs – which include the basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, advanced scientific computing, nuclear physics, high energy physics, and fusion energy – are central focuses of the department.

Title I – Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer

  • Early stage tech demonstration. Enables the national labs to utilize technology transfer funds for early stage and pre-commercial technology demonstration activities;
  • Calls for accelerating the pace of clean energy innovation in the U.S.;
  • Laboratory-directed R&D. Prohibits the national labs from spending general and administration overhead funds on laboratory-directed R&D;
  • Online grant database. Requires DOE to create a public online database that contains searchable listings of all its R&D contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, and task orders;
  • Tech transfer report. Directs DOE to issue a report on improving its ability to transfer new energy technologies to the private sector;
  • Lab-to-market technology commercialization. Authorizes and extends the Agreements for Commercializing Technology pilot program, which provides the labs with “increased authority to negotiate contract terms, such as intellectual property rights, payment structures, performance guarantees, and multiparty collaborations

Title II – DOE Research Coordination

  • Protects ARPA-E grant recipients’ proprietary information rights;
  • Strategic research portfolio analysis. Reauthorizes a department-wide strategic portfolio analysis and coordination plan for DOE’s R&D programs;
  • Energy Innovation Hubs. Authorizes the DOE’s Energy Innovation Hubs for the first time

Title III – DOE Office of Science Policy

Basic Energy Sciences

  • Energy Research Frontier Centers. Sets specific policies for DOE’s Energy Research Frontier Centers;
  • User facilities. Authorizes the construction of user facilities, including x-ray light sources, neutron sources, and nanoscale science research centers;
  • Accelerator and storage rings. Directs DOE to carry out R&D on advanced accelerator and storage ring technologies;
  • Solar Fuels Research Initiative. Establishes a Solar Fuels Research Initiative “to expand photochemistry, electrochemistry, biochemistry, and materials science useful for the practical development of experimental systems to convert solar energy to chemical energy,” including artificial photosynthesis;
  • Electricity Storage Research Initiative. Establishes an Electricity Storage Research Initiative to “expand theoretical and fundamental knowledge to control, store, and convert electrical energy to chemical energy and chemical energy to electrical energy

Advanced Scientific Computing Research

  • Exascale computing. Directs DOE to develop two or more exascale computing machine architectures;
  • High-performance computing for energy. Directs DOE to “support research in high-performance computing and networking relevant to energy applications”;
  • Applied mathematics. Directs DOE to develop, test, and support mathematics, models, and algorithms for complex systems

High Energy Physics

  • P5 recommendations. Finds that DOE should incorporate the findings and recommendations of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) report in future department planning;
  • Research access to international facilities. Requires DOE to ensure U.S. researchers have access “to the most advanced accelerator facilities and research capabilities in the world, including the Large Hadron Collider”;
  • Neutrinos. Directs DOE to carry out research “on rare decay processes and the nature of the neutrino,” including in collaboration with the National Science Foundation;
  • Dark matter and energy. Directs DOE to carry out research “on the nature of dark energy and dark matter” in collaboration with NSF and NASA

Biological and Environmental Research

  • Systems-level biology. Directs DOE to carry out R&D “in fundamental, structural, computational, and systems biology to increase systems-level understanding of the complex biological systems,” including on biofuels, the global carbon cycle, and sub-surface environments;
  • Climate science restriction. Restricts DOE from starting new climate science-related initiatives without first determining that such work is well-coordinated with other federal agencies;
  • Low dose radiation impacts. Re-establishes the low dose radiation research program

Fusion Energy

  • Materials for fusion. Directs DOE to carry out R&D “to identify, characterize, and demonstrate materials that can endure the neutron, plasma, and heat fluxes expected in a fusion power system”;
  • Tokamak and inertial fusion. Directs DOE to support R&D “to optimize the tokamak approach to fusion energy, as well as inertial fusion for energy applications”;
  • Magnetic fusion power plant. Directs DOE to explore alternative and enabling fusion energy concepts that could lead to the establishment of a commercial magnetic fusion power plant, and instructs DOE to work with ARPA-E to assess the potential for a fusion energy project that could lead to a commercially viable fusion power plant;
  • 10-year fusion R&D plan. Requires a report to Congress on DOE’s 10-year plan for fusion energy R&D, including how to “establish or solidify a lead in the global fusion energy development effort

Nuclear Physics

  • Isotopes. Authorizes DOE to carry out a program for the production of isotopes needed for research, medical, industrial, or related purposes;
  • Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Renames the “Rare Isotope Accelerator” as the “Facility for Rare Isotope Beams”

Science Laboratories Infrastructure Program

  • Establishes a program to improve the “safety, efficiency, and mission readiness” of infrastructure at the Office of Science’s laboratories

Title IV – Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities

  • Nuclear research reactor. Directs DOE to construct an advanced nuclear research reactor, featuring a versatile fast neutron source, by the end of 2025;
  • High-performance computing for nuclear. Launches a program to utilize high-performance computer modeling and simulation techniques to advance new reactor technologies; and
  • National Reactor Innovation Center. Establishes a National Reactor Innovation Center to enable the private sector to collaborate with and leverage the expertise of the national labs in order to test and demonstrate privately funded nuclear reactor concepts.

Sec. 101. Short title.

Sec. 102. Inclusion of early stage technology demonstration in authorized technology transfer activities.

Sec. 103. Sense of Congress on accelerating energy innovation.

Sec. 104. Restoration of laboratory directed research and development program.

Sec. 105. Research grants database.

Sec. 106. Technology transfer and transitions assessment.

Sec. 107. Agreements for commercializing technology pilot program.

Sec. 108. Short-term cost-share pilot program.

Sec. 201. Short title.

Sec. 202. Protection of information.

Sec. 203. Crosscutting research and development.

Sec. 204. Strategic research portfolio analysis and coordination plan.

Sec. 205. Strategy for facilities and infrastructure.

Sec. 206. Energy Innovation Hubs.

Sec. 301. Short title.

Sec. 302. Mission.

Sec. 303. Basic energy sciences.

Sec. 304. Advanced scientific computing research.

Sec. 305. High-energy physics.

Sec. 306. Biological and environmental research.

Sec. 307. Fusion energy.

Sec. 308. Nuclear physics.

Sec. 309. Science laboratories infrastructure program.

Sec. 401. Short title.

Sec. 402. Nuclear energy innovation capabilities.

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