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National Academy of Sciences Recommends New Fusion Research Facilities toward a Pilot Plant

Dec. 5, 2019 (EIRNS)—At this year’s Fusion Power Associates annual meeting Dec. 3-4 in Washington, there were no major breakthrough experimental results reported, as some machines are under repair (i.e., Princeton) and some are being or have recently been upgraded (i.e., KSTAR in Korea). But one of the most encouraging developments in the conclusions and recommendations is the recently completed study of fusion by the National Academy of Sciences.

The panel’s report, “Burning Plasma Research,” carried out by the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Plasma Research, concluded that “now is the time to begin recognizing fusion as an energy source,” rather only as a science program, Michael Mauel, co-chair of the panel told conference attendees. Why now? The report outlines progress in several technical engineering challenges in fusion, such as high-temperature superconducting magnets and new materials, and recommends that the U.S. start a program toward building a compact reactor (meaning smaller than ITER) that is “economical.” To do this, the report states, requires “building new facilities,” which has not been done for decades.

The study had been ordered by and was supported by the Department of Energy, but Academy reports are also taken most seriously on Capitol Hill. This study recommends that the annual fusion budget be raised by $200 million for each of the next 10 years to carry out this acceleration of a fusion energy program. If both the Executive and Legislative branches of government in Washington get behind the recommendations, we could finally see at least the beginning of positive motion.

For the second year in a row, the director of China’s Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (INEST), which carries out extensive work in fusion, was denied a visa. The scientist from INEST who gave the presentation, Zhibin Chen, briefly discussed the cooperation program INEST has with Russia. Called the “Alliance” program, its focus is to verify and validate components. He said that INEST is very interested in cooperation, and anyone likewise interested should email him.

INEST conducts extensive research in fission technology. Chen said that although after nuclear accidents, support for nuclear technology in advanced countries dropped, in the developing countries it was less so. These countries are not interested in building small reactors, he said, because they need the power. “Look at China and India,” he suggested.

Dr. Chen said that fission is the competition for fusion, so they want to accelerate the development of fusion.

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