Significant advances have been made in fusion science, and a point has been reached when we need to decide if the United States is ready to begin a burning plasma experiment. A burning plasma in which at least 50 percent of the energy to drive the fusion reaction is generated internally is an essential step to reach the goal of fusion power generation. The Burning Plasma Assessment Committee was formed to provide advice on this decision. The committee concluded that there is high confidence in the readiness to proceed with the burning plasma step. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), with the United States as a significant partner, was the best choice. Once a commitment to ITER is made, fulfilling it should become the highest priority of the U.S. fusion research program. A funding trajectory is required that both captures the benefits of joining ITER and retains a strong scientific focus on the long-range goals of the program. Addition of the ITER project will require that the content, scope, and level of U.S. fusion activity be defined by program balancing through a priority-setting process initiated by the Office of Fusion Energy Science.
"The production of energy by controlled thermonuclear fusion has turned out to be much more difficult than was originally suggested. However, the research program is presently (about 2002) at a point where decisions need to be taken about proceeding toward a burning plasma experiment. The report of a study by the Burning Plasma Assessment committee, this book's four chapters discuss the nature of the required steps, the scientific and technological value of and interest in such an experiment, the scientific and technical readiness as of now, and the program structure and balance. There are also eight appendixes. The book contains much information, both on this specialized science and on policy questions. . . . Nicely produced with attractive diagrams and illustrations."
-- Choice, October 2004