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Science in Mind

Senators issue plea to save MIT’s nuclear fusion experiment

The plan to shut down a nuclear fusion experiment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a year and news that half the project’s employees have received layoff notices has prompted objections from the state’s two US senators.

Last week, Senators Elizabeth Warren and William M. Cowan wrote a letter to Ernest Moniz, the MIT physicist who was recently confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Energy, urging him to restore funding to the experiment.

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“We were troubled to learn that last week, as a result of budget uncertainty, MIT issued Reduction in Force notices to 35 scientists, engineers, and technicians at the Alcator C-Mod facility,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned that failing to provide funding for the facility will threaten American leadership in fusion energy research, harm the American economy in the long term, and hinder innovative efforts to develop clean, safe energy production through fusion.”

The letter is the latest effort to save the experiment, after a similar letter in April, signed by members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation.

MIT vice president for research Maria Zuber has said that if Moniz were confirmed as energy secretary, the longtime MIT professor would have to recuse himself from any decision on the fusion experiment.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.

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