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U.S. Withdrawal from ITER Would ‘Isolate’ U.S. Fusion Scientists

Dec. 30, 2017 (EIRNS)—The National Academy of Sciences has made available a pre-publication version of its "Interim Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research." Although soft-spoken, the report states, "A decision by the United States to withdraw from the ITER [International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor] project as the primary experimental burning plasma component within a balanced long-term strategic plan for fusion energy could isolate U.S. fusion scientists from the international effort."

The Senate has zeroed out funding for ITER each of the past few years. Less-than-minimal funding has been restored by the House. There is no indication yet what the Trump Administration FY19 budget request will be.

The report goes on to say that a withdrawal from ITER "would require the United States to develop a new approach to study a burning plasma." That a new U.S. domestic burning plasma experiment is not in the cards to carry out experiments that would be lost by not participating in ITER, is noted in the report by the "recent closures of domestic experimental facilities without new starts."

The report says that,

"Although our international partners have national strategic plans leading to a fusion energy demonstration device, the United States does not."

All of these efforts have "high-level governmental support including in some cases, accompanying legislation." (South Korea and China have such legislation.)

The Committee recognizes the progress made in the U.S. fusion program, and explains that a burning plasma experiment, such as ITER, has to be the next step.