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A Report on Fusion Power Development

Dec. 15, 2016 (EIRNS)—The annual meeting of Fusion Power Associates (FPA) in Washington, D.C. presents an opportunity for scientists and engineers to report on and share developments over the past year in fusion research and development. This year’s theme, "Fusion Power Development: An International Venture," encapsulates both the fruitful collaboration between fusion researchers worldwide, and the tragic state of the U.S. fusion program, which, not having the funds to run experiments, is sending American scientists overseas.

Important results were reported from experiments carried out over the past year on the Chinese and South Korean superconducting tokamaks, EAST and KSTAR, including longer pulse lengths of fusion energy. China is pushing ahead, while awaiting formal central government approval, to design its China Fusion Energy Test Reactor, and is putting in place the advanced machining and manufacturing capacity to design, and then build and test new technologies. Korea, on the other hand, has delayed from 2026 to 2042 building its own future DEMO fusion reactor, due to a lack of funding. Similar budgetary restrictions were noted for the fusion program in Japan.

The U.S. case is a scandal. Three months ago, the MIT Alcator tokamak was shuttered, due to a "lack" of funding. What became clear during the two-day FPA meeting, was that without international collaboration, there will be very little progress in U.S. fusion research. The Chinese have opened their EAST tokamak for foreign collaboration, and now a team of fusion scientists at General Atomics in California form a "third shift" on the machine. When the Chinese scientists are at home asleep, the GA scientists do experiments on EAST, remotely, from their "control room" in San Diego. In this collaboration, the Chinese scientists benefit from the many decades of theoretical and experimental U.S. fusion research, experience, and ideas—and the U.S. scientists have access to an experimental machine which is on the leading edge of fusion research.

The Chinese report that there are more than 100 foreign fusion scientists working full-time in China.

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